In April, the FTC reminded a bunch of celebrities, brands and influencers about how to properly post sponsored content on social media. But a study done by the marketing firm Mediakix found that 93 percent of ads posted by top celebrities don't follow the rules.
Posting shady advertisements has gotten celebrities into trouble lately. First came the FTC warnings, then came the egregious promotions of the disastrous Fyre Festival where celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid advertised the event without making it clear that they were doing so. And now we have numbers on just how often celebs pull this kind of stuff.
The firm looked at the top 50 celebrities on Instagram -- people like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé -- and looked at every ad they posted over four weeks, which came out to 152 Instagram posts. To be within FTC guidelines, the ad must contain "#ad" or "#sponsored." Using the abbreviated "#sp" isn't allowed. The hashtag must also be early in the post and not at the end of a long caption or among dozens of other hashtags. And just tagging the sponsor is a no go.
Obsessed with @SugarBearHair for over a year! This is more than just an #Ad because I truly love these delicious, soft, chewy vitamins. I've loved keeping my natural hair short because of the fun versatility it gives me, so I take SugarBear vitamins for stronger healthier hair. These vitamins are amazing! #sugarbearhair #ad
With those simple rules at play, Mediakix found that only 7 percent of ads were posted the right way. Buzzfeed later looked at the data and broke down each ad into different categories. Long-term sponsorships led the pack, accounting for around half of all advertisements. And all but one of those ads broke FTC regulations. Twelve percent of sponsored content was of the pay to post type -- things like diet teas and vitamins -- and of the ads that followed the guidelines, nearly every single one was a pay to post advertisement.
The rest of the posts were made up of other types of sponsored content, like promoting free things that the celebrity received. And all of this suggests that celebrities are just really confused as to what counts as an ad, only sticking to the rules when it's something they're explicitly paid to post. But with top celebrities averaging 58 sponsored posts per year, they should really get it together.