Dozens of celebrities who hawk products on Instagram still fail to adequately disclose that their endorsements are paid ads, despite receiving reminders from the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year, according to watchdogs.
"The FTC’s reminder letters have not been effective, and influencers and advertisers are disregarding both the FTC’s letter and guidelines," Public Citizen, Commercial Alert, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy said Monday in a new letter to the agency. The groups are urging the FTC to bring enforcement actions and to "work with Instagram on a long-term solution."
Public Citizen and the other organizations initially urged the FTC last September to investigate Instagram influencers, who endorse products without disclosing that they were paid to do so.
Earlier this year, the agency sent what it described as "reminder letters" to 90 influencers and marketers -- including companies like Dunkin' Donuts, Puma, Chanel and Adidas, as well as celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Lynn Spears.
In those letters, the FTC told influencers to clearly disclose when they are paid to post endorsements. The agency added that the disclosures should appear in the first three lines of text -- above Instagram's "more" button.
Public Citizen and the other organizations now say that almost all of the influencers who received those letters have failed to consistently follow the FTC's advice. The organization looked at 46 recipients' Instagram posts over a six-week period starting in May, and found that only one endorser "consistently used proper disclosures on what are likely paid posts."
While some of the other endorsers occasionally complied with the FTC's letter, the vast majority of posts that appeared to be sponsored failed to include adequate disclosures, according to the watchdogs. In total, the groups examined 412 posts that appeared to feature sponsored content. Of those, only 84 included acceptable disclosures, the group said.
The watchdogs added that most of the posts lacking disclosures featured beauty products or cosmetic treatments -- including makeup, vitamin injections of cellulite removal. "This is problematic for young and impressionable consumers who look to influencers and celebrities as role models," the letter states.