Sponsorships Getting Less Clear

Kylie JennerThe Federal Trade Commission has guidelines for celebrities and bloggers to reveal their sponsorship ties, but they are not consistently followed, and some say the guidelines could be clearer. Companies shell out thousands of dollars for people with large numbers of followers to mention their brands on social media. But what's the difference between testimony and an ad?

Mary K. Engle, the FTC's associate director for advertising practices told The New York Times that, although an endorsement has to be clear, they are not "prescriptive" about what's included in a social mention. The FTC guidelines suggest starting a post with something like "#Ad." According to the Times, "For example, simply saying 'thank you' to a brand or adding '#sp' or '#spon' probably isn't clear enough, while saying a brand is a 'partner' probably is," Engle said.

The organization Truth in Advertising wrote a letter to the Kardashian/Jenner family about recent posts they consider to be deceptive marketing. On her Instagram account, Kylie Jenner displays Fit Tea but fails to mention that this is a paid endorsement.

Discussion Starters:

  • Should the FTC create more specific guidelines for what to include in social media posts? Or should celebrities know better?
  • What's the value of disclosing that a celebrity is compensated by a brand? How, if it all, would a clearer marking affect your decision to buy a product?