A feature article in NY Times today, reveals how advertisers are using ‘ads’ in social media as ‘testimonials’ of the celebrities. These new promotional campaigns are mostly for such cosmetic products which are being pushed to cover larger market.
As an example, it describes how millions of people who follow Kim Kardashian West and her sisters on social media have become accustomed to seeing them praise everything from fat-burning tea to gummy vitamins for healthier hair - “Ever since I started taking two @sugarbearhair a day, my hair has been fuller and stronger than ever!! Even with all the heat and bleaching I do to it!” Khloé Kardashian posted on Instagram this month.
However last week, close watchers of the sisters’ accounts noticed a small addition to those laudatory messages about the latest miracle product: “#ad.”
The strategy behind is to deceptively portray these ‘ads’ or ‘sponsored’ messages as testimonials purportedly from people like the Kardashians and other so-called influencers who command big, loyal followings on services like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.
These marketing strategies are being seen as violation of fair advertising code, but Mary K. Engle, FTC’s Associate Director feels that such ‘ads’ have to be unambiguous before these are considered so.
Audiences “have a very visceral reaction to ‘#ad’ or ‘#spon’ or whatever it is, where they don’t want to know people are getting paid for stuff even if they are,” according to Jaclyn Johnson, president of creative services at Small Girls PR, where she connects brands like L’Oréal Paris and Urban Decay cosmetics to influencers who have large social media followings. Disclosure, which the F.T.C. has been wrestling with for years has become more important as the money offered to influencers has jumped and the number of sponsored posts on services like Instagram and YouTube has surged.
A company ‘Captiv8’ that connects brands to influencers, says someone with three million to seven million followers can charge, on average, $187,500 for a post on YouTube, $75,000 for a post on Instagram or Snapchat and $30,000 for a Twitter post. For influencers with 50,000 to 500,000 followers, the average is $2,500 for YouTube, $1,000 for Instagram or Snapchat and $400 for Twitter.
The company has counted more than 200,000 Instagram posts a month since January tagged with “#ad,” “#sp” or “#sponsored” — and that does not include those that were not properly marked.