CommonSense Blog

How Beyonce, Kim K and Reese Witherspoon May Be in Trouble with the FTC

By Eileen O'Brien | Feb 15, 2016

Social media enables celebrities to have intimate and frequent contact with fans. In particular, Instagram has served to give us a glimpse inside the daily lives of our favorite stars. Social media has also given birth to an entirely new breed of celebrities, YouTube “content creators,” who have a huge impact among tweens and teens.

When a celebrity endorses a product via TV commercial or infomercial it’s obvious that it’s an advertisement. Now the lines are blurred. In order to protect the general public and ensure that online influencers are transparent about payment and gifts, in 2009 the Federal Trade Commission issued Endorsement Guides. The FTC clearly explains the rules and makes it easy to accomplish by simply using #ad, #paid, #sponsored or #promoted in a post.

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Beyonce is Crazy in Love with Airbnb

After the Super Bowl, Beyonce shared on Facebook a photo with the caption, “It was a Super weekend Airbnb” with a link to the Airbnb Facebook page. Neither the superstar nor the company will confirm if she was paid for the endorsement or comped the accommodation. If this was the case, then Beyonce would need to disclose that on the post.

Another example is Reese Witherspoon who has started a company, Draper James, and on Instagram frequently shares images of herself wearing the clothing. None of these indicate that she has a financial involvement in the company.

Best FDA Letter Ever

In August 2015, Kim Kardashian and Duchesnay admitted that she was paid for her endorsement of morning sickness medication, Diclegis, via Instagram. The post initially received attention for resulting in a letter from the Food and Drug Administration regarding her lack of fair balance in the post. Kardashian also did not note that there was a paid relationship.

Will the FTC Respond?

These are only the most popular examples, but a few months ago Jezebel identified many more personalities who are ignoring the FTC guidelines. Beyonce, Kardashian and Witherspoon are extremely sophisticated marketers with carefully curated social feeds, so it surprises me that they haven’t been made aware of the potential issues with the FTC. Perhaps it will take the FTC going after a high profile personality to make others compliant.