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If you have social media accounts, such as Instagram or Twitter, and follow celebrities on the apps, you may have noticed your favorite celeb seems to be using the hashtags #ad or #sponsored with more frequency.

Under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) endorsement guidelines, social media users must disclose when there is some kind of relationship, often monetary, between the endorsement-maker and an advertiser. This usually takes the form of a hashtag like #ad or #sponsored. Some celebrity ads are obvious and easy to identify, but there are many that are confusing or unclear, because many celebrities and influencers don’t properly disclose their sponsored posts. And if an account endorses a product without making that clear, it could be in violation of the guidelines.

After reviewing posts by celebrities, athletes and other influencers, the FTC has taken steps to crack down on these ads. A report on the top 50 most popular celebrities showed that 93% of the ads they did were not properly disclosed.

The FTC has been sending out warning letters to companies, marketers and celebrities so influencers clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media. Vague hashtags like #partner or #sp, or simply tagging the sponsor in the picture are not considered proper disclosures. The hashtag must also be early in the post and not at the end of a long caption or among dozens of other hashtags.

You may wonder why you should care that a celebrity doesn’t disclose an ad. Well it’s not just celebrities who share their opinions with their followers. Do you follow a food blogger? What about a self-proclaimed sneaker-fanatic? Consumers should have all the information they need to make an informed decision. If an influencer is getting paid to promote merchandise or services, you may not be getting an objective opinion on a product. If someone is telling you a brand of sneakers is comfortable and you’ll be able to stand on your feet for hours without pain, you want to know whether they really had that experience or if they’re getting paid to tell you that they did.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.


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