Friday, September 2, 2016
There was an interesting article in Tuesday's New York Times about the Kardashians/Jenners and their flouting of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) guidelines for bloggers, and celebrities who advertise products on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other online boards. In March of 2013, I told you about the new guidelines that require transparency regarding gratis products and/or payments for product features. Many bloggers immediately and unhappily began to follow the rules requiring that they disclose gratis products (free), sponsored posts, and affiliate links clearly and conspicuously.
Here is what I wrote at the time...
The FTC wants digital sites to make perfectly clear that the product being reviewed was received for free. The agency assumes (as I often do) that a glowing review was provided in trade for the free product. I think it's about time the FTC weighed in and clarified their expectations. My only regret is that they did not extend their guidelines to magazines. If you think Allure purchases what it glowingly features, think again.
The FTC make it clear that it's not adequate to leave a small print statement, such as "This product was provided for editorial consideration," at the bottom of a review. They want it disclosed in the review right away, up-front if possible, and they want it equal in size to the content of the post. I have always tried to disclose early in my features (as long as I could make it flow) and will try even harder going forward. I have never resorted to the "editorial consideration" lingo because I believe the product was sent to me with an implicit expectation of a review. No one sending me free products expects me to enjoy them and "consider" reviewing them. I'm not that naive.
The FTC particularly does not approve of a disclosures section that says something like, "From time to time, companies send me products for free, but I always review them honestly." That was the "solution" of many beauty bloggers and now it's a no-no - as it should be. Additionally, bloggers paid to tweet [or post on Instagram] about a product will be expected to add a hashtag, such as #ad to their tweet.
The Times told us that the FTC had caught up with the Instagram posts of Kim, Khloé, Kourtney, Kylie, and Kendall for their failure to abide by federal guidelines. These women get paid big bucks to advertise products, services, and places on Instagram as if they were their favorites - love or advertisements? The example cited was an Instagram post by Kylie Jenner that originally said, "Thanks for the birthday home, @airbnb," that was changed to"Thanks for the gift of a lovely birthday home, @airbnb" after her lawyer received a letter from TruthinAdvertising.org. I'm not sure that cleared up the gratis stay. The "ladies" also edited the captions on at least a dozen other Instagram photos and deleted others.
Top social media celebrities are paid on the average $187,500 for a post on YouTube, $75,000 for a post on Instagram or Snapchat, and $30,000 for a post on Twitter. The rules state that these posts must be labeled #ad or #sponsored to make it clear that they celebrity was paid for the endorsement.
I found it hilarious that several PR representatives were quoted as saying that audiences have a "visceral" reaction to seeing the #ad hashtags because they don't want to know that people are getting paid for "stuff, even if they are." Bloggers have told L'Oreal Paris and Urban Decay that their engagement on posts that are properly tagged "ad" or "sponsored" get lower engagement than if the tag were not there. I think that's hooey. What do you think?
As you know, many beauty bloggers disclose, either in the text of a feature, or by using buttons at the top of the feature. I sincerely doubt that their readers are turned off by such disclosures. I'm sure you have also noticed that some beauty bloggers do not disclose. Sooner or later, these bloggers, if they have a decent audience, will be caught, and the fines will be painful. I'm glad the government and Truth in Advertising are making an example of the Kardashian crew. They make millions of dollars a year simply by posting Instagram promotions. It's time they added honesty to their shtick.
It's time for the Friday Forum. The Friday Forum has always been an opportunity to share information. Are you using a fabulous product and want to sing its praises? Tell us about it! Did you find a beauty product disappointing? Tell us why! Do you have questions others might be able to answer? We can help! Want to talk about skin care? I'm game. Just use the comments. We have busy weekends and slow ones on the forum. I hope to see you in the comments.
I may take a few days off over this Labor Day weekend. I've noticed that readership has taken a nosedive in the last week, and I've concluded that many readers are taking advantage of the last official week of summer for a vacation. I think should do that too, but if I get my hands on anything extraordinary, I will put that vacation on hold and feature it. Happy Labor Day!
I do want to remind you that Neiman Marcus' Beauty Event starts next week. You can pre-order now. If you need some help, call (202) 966-9700 and ask for Debbie O'Malley or Michael Reinhardt. They can help you with their own products (Tom Ford and Le Métier de Beauté) or any products in the beauty and fragrance department. The tote that you will receive with a nominal ($125) purchase is nice this time. It's worth a look-see.
Photo courtesy of Pinterest