Celebrity endorsements getting new scrutiny

With the growth of social media has come a new type of celebrity endorsement: Tweets and Timeline posts about the celebrity’s use of a product. While in the old days, when television, radio and other formats made it obvious that the celebrity talking about a product was being paid to do so, in today’s instantaneous social media world, that’s not always the case.

A celebrity who happens to say “thank you” to a business may be genuinely saying “thanks” or may be getting some sort of payment for the public message.  As the New York Times Blog points out, as an example, Miley Cyrus was paid to say “thanks” to BlackJet for the use of a private plane.

Federal law under the Federal Trade Commission requires that anyone giving an endorsement of a product or any company paying someone to give endorsements give disclosure of that fact when doing so in certain mediums. The Dot Com Disclosures portion of this rule requires bloggers, celebrities, and others to disclose any transactions or relationship with the business or product being mentioned.  Fines and warnings are possible, but not often enforced.

It’s a thin line and many appear to cross it regularly.  Aston Kutcher, Kim Kardashian and others are regularly promoting products or businesses through their social networks.  Less well-known, but no less popular bloggers, social network users, etc. are also often paid to do the same and rarely disclose. For its part, the FTC has said it has many open investigations into celebrity and non-celeb use of social media to promote products, so it’s likely that we’ll start seeing news items about fines and crackdowns soon.

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