Celebrities in the US warned over Instagram ads

More than 90 individuals and marketing firms received a warning

The issue of influencer marketing continues to cause headaches for those looking to monitor and police advertising regulations. 

The US consumer regulator sent letters to more than 90 individuals and marketing firms, warning them to clearly identify when they are promoting products and services on Instagram for payment. 

This the first time the regulator has intervened on the issue, which comes after an advocacy group named Public Citizen petitioned for more transparency on the social media platform. The group said Instagram had become "a Wild West of disguised advertising." 

Rules published by the Federal Trade Commission outlines how anyone endorsing a brand must declare their actions "clearly and conspicuously". This includes instances where a product has been given for free, payment has been made or if there is a family or business relationship. 

Public Citizen previously carried out an investigation into celebrities and influencers who endorsed products without disclosures. It found 113 influencers had done so, including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. 

"It is often unclear whether an Instagram user is paid to post a product endorsement or if they genuinely use it," said the group. "That's exactly why brands are using influencer marketing as a primary way to reach young consumers. But without clear disclosure, brands are deceiving consumers and reaping the monetary benefits."

In guidelines, the regulator says "A simple disclosure like 'Company X gave me this product to try...' will usually be effective."

Influencers in Ireland 

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) recently called on bloggers and influencers to fully declare marketing communications.

The new 'Recognisability of Marketing Communications' guidance issued by the ASAI outlines general requirements of advertisers across social media.

This includes:

  • Independent reviews, including bloggers and vloggers
  • Recognisability
  • Key watch outs
  • Free Products

Bloggers and online influencers are already required to adhere to the ASAI's Code of Standards for Advertising - which applies to all commercial marketing communications, regardless of where they appear.