Picture this: you’re scrolling through Instagram and you see some Instagram model posting about gummy bears that make your hair miraculously grow to your waist. The caption is an unrelated Gandhi quote about being the change you wish to see in the world, followed by roughly 36 hashtags, including #ad and #sponsored. You think to yourself, well duh, of course it’s an ad, she didn’t have to tell me that.
Congratulations, you are more perceptive than the average Instagrammer according to the FTC! The FTC has decided that without disclosures like #ad, the ordinary consumer might think that the Instagram model is just a die-hard gummy bear hair vitamin fan with no other motivation for posting. Because the FTC is concerned with transparent advertising, they’ve created guidelines for social media endorsements in advertising. Those guidelines say that if someone posts a message that appears to reflect their opinions, experiences, or beliefs, that person is an endorser. The guidelines take it a step further and say that if you’re an endorser because a brand paid you, you have to tell people that, since maybe, just maybe, you were motivated to post by the dollar dollar bills y’all.
So what if the “endorser” is that totally cute, extra fluffy corgi you follow on Instagram (you know the one I’m talking about)? If he really loves a particular brand of chew toys, can he use his insane social media skills to post about it? What if that brand heard that he loves their toys and sent him a few just to make his little corgi day – can he post about it to say thanks?
Here’s the thing – you didn’t hear this from me, but his human is running his Instagram account. And if companies are mailing toys to his human or even sending his human a big fat check to post about their brand, then he’s a paid endorser and needs to tell all the other Instapups that it’s #sponsored. The FTC probably doesn’t care that he’s not human, since the guidelines apply when consumers are likely to believe that the views expressed are the endorser’s – and who has more views on chew toys than a pup himself? Since Instagram users with 100,000 followers can get $5,000 for a single post, play it safe and make sure to tell Waffles to disclose his brand deals – that’s a lot of kibble on the line!