It's been a bone of contention for a while now – celebrities and bloggers Instagramming items they 'absolutely love'... and not disclosing when they were paid to say so or had been gifted the items for free...
The Federal Trade Commission is now taking definitive action to crack down on this deceitful practice. As the BBC reported, yesterday, the US regulator sent letters to 90 individuals and marketing firms warning them to 'clearly and conspicuously' state when they are endorsing a brand they have entered into a commercial arrangement or agreement with.
Pointers in the letter instructed recipients to write more than merely #sp (for 'sponsored') #partner or 'Thanks [Name of brand]', and whilst it fell short of stipulating exactly what phrases to use, indicated such hashtags as '#paid for', '#promotion', '#sponsored' or '#ad' were good examples.
The letter also made clear that any such hashtags or phrases must appear within the first three lines of a post – otherwise they fall beneath the ellipsis and require followers to click to expand the caption to read them.
Whilst this does undeniably alter the 'Instagram experience' for users, it's made the whole endorsement thing a whole lot more transparent. Which is exactly what needed to happen. Advocacy group Public Citizen recently labelled Instagram 'a Wild West of disguised advertising' and guess who they identified as its target market?