As Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” But Peter Parker had to learn the hard way, and marketers and social influencers sometimes need to as well. Well-known influencers can come from anywhere – some have big screen starts, others are video game superstars, and still others are makeup geeks. Some even started out as bloggers (fingers crossed). As the compensation of social influencers increases, however (YouTube channel Itsbabybigmouth reportedly makes between $567,000 and $9 million for its YouTube channel that features opening candy eggs to reveal the surprise toys inside), influencers – and the marketers and advertisers who engage them – face ever-greater scrutiny by regulators.
Earlier this month, at the NAD Conference, Commissioner Brill emphasized the importance of disclosures surrounding endorsers and indicated that social influencers would be a hot topic of enforcement.
And, as we’ve blogged about before, with the FTC’s decision in Machinima, companies that use social influencers will be taken to task to ensure that they are positively influencing their influencer’s posts. The FTC decision in Machinima demonstrates that marketers using influencers must take care in disclosing the material connection between the influencer and the advertiser, and actively monitor influencers to ensure compliance with disclosure rules.
The FDA has also jumped into the fray. The FDA sent a highly publicized warning letter to Duchesnay USA for Kim Kardashian’s statements on Instagram surrounding her use of Diclegis for morning sickness. The FDA scolded Duchesnay because the Instagram post failed to communicate any risk information associated with the product’s use and omitted other material facts.
Ultimately, the FTC’s Testimonial and Endorsement Guides will be a governing factor when it comes to using influencers. Earlier this year, we noted some of the updates to the Endorsement and Testimonial Guides, many of which are relevant to social influencers and the proper disclosures surrounding them.
Although the FTC has not yet targeted any individual social influencers, influencers and marketers should be vigilant – even more so than the millions of consumers who follow influencers – and ensure that the statements and disclosures made by the influencers and endorsers are FTC compliant.