Kardashians + Advertising Disclosure

The Kardashians are in the news again (and I mean news, not tabloids). Why this time? It’s all about them #ads.

Back in 2016, the advertising watchdog Truth in Advertising (TINA) filed a complaint with the American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against the Kardashian-Jenner family for posting sponsored posts without acknowledging they were being paid to post the content. Now a year later, TINA has completed a follow-up investigation of the famous family and they’ve discovered more deceptive advertising practices. It’s required by federal law to conspicuously disclose advertisements.

The Kardashian-Jenner family aren’t the only influencers guilty of the #stealthad. There’s a long list of brands and influencers who haven’t been disclosing a paid relationship. This list includes Nordstrom Rack, Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Trevor Martin and Thomas Cassell (owners of CSGO Lotto), and over 100 other social media influencers.

For those who spend a lot of time on Instagram, Snap, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, there’s no doubt that you’ve seen some posts that are sponsored — but has that sponsorship been disclosed? I’ve questioned some product placement in YouTube videos more than once (just this week).

This is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed more seriously. A TINA press release states that “Brands continue to spend upwards of $250 million a month on influencer marketing campaigns on Instagram alone.

One of the big issues that has come to light with the recent TINA follow-up investigation is the sketchy way the Kardashian-Jenner family is going about adding their advertising discloser. In the image below you can see the original post and caption on Instagram (left) which does not identify the post as sponsored with over 1 million likes. On the right, you can see that Kortney Kardashian edited her post after at least two days to include #ad to indicate that the post was sponsored.

Kortney Kardashian only disclosed that this post was sponsored after it had been posted for days and already received over 1 million likes. (Source: TINA)

But what about long-term celebrity endorsement contracts? The Kardashian-Jenner family have endorsement deals with brands like Balmain, Adidas, and many others. And it’s not just the Kardashian-Jenner family. Think about all those celebrities who are the “faces” of major brands? Jennifer Lawrence, Boy George, and Charlize Theron for Dior. Katy Perry, Ellen DeGeneres, and others for Cover Girl. What about all those YouTube beauty gurus with Morphe (or other brand) contracts? Every time ManyMUA uses a Morphe brush on YouTube, should there be a verbal disclosure? When we see Jennifer Lawrence doing press junkets all decked out in Dior, should we see #ad on the screen?

What about movies? You think that can of Coca-Cola is perfectly in the shot just by happenstance? Isn’t Transformers just a huge GM advertisement?

When people earning money to post something on their personal accounts it absolutely needs to be disclosed. When studios are using product placement in movies, it should be disclosed. Transparency builds trust. Transparency allows us to be informed consumers. Until big fines are laid down on brands and influencers by the FTC, we’re going to keep seeing sketchy disclosure practices.

What do you think about advertising disclosure? Should there be a more formalized set of rules about how to disclose sponsored content?