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It’s a celeb sin to not declare social media plugs! Here’s why

After the likes of Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski came under fire for not openly declaring endorsing products or services on social media, we look at the phenomenon closer home.

more lifestyle Updated: Feb 04, 2019 11:26 IST
Celebrity advertising,Bella Hadid,Kendall Jenner
Should our Bollywood celebrities disclose if they are getting paid to endorse a product or service on Instagram?(Instagram/sakpataudi)

When scrolling down your social media feed, you must’ve come across a post by your favourite celebrity raving about a product/service they love. Well, it’s not a hidden secret that it’s some of it is paid for but how often do the stars declare so? A recent article by British tabloid Daily Mail highlighted how UK celebrities such as model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, pop stars Rita Ora and Ellie Goulding were lambasted and called out for endorsing products without declaring that they were paid to.

Rajkumar Rao’s picture with Patralekha announced it was an Airbnb ad. ( photo: Instagram/rajkumarraofficial )

The Daily Mail also reported that an investigation was conducted by Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) when concerns were raised by social media users that celebrities were not openly declaring that they were paid or rewarded to endorse goods and services. The stars who were named and shamed (and the ones who weren’t) in the investigation, which started last year in August, have pledged to be transparent going forward, from now on.

Guidelines for celebrities in advertising, according to the Advertising Standards Council of India
  • The ASCI’s Chapter I on ‘Truthful and Honest Representation,’ clause 1.4, states: “Advertisement shall neither distort facts nor mislead the consumer by means of implications and omissions. Advertisements shall not contain statements or visual presentation which directly or by implication or by omission or by ambiguity or by exaggeration are likely to mislead the consumer about the product advertised or the advertiser or about any other product or advertiser”.
  • Therefore a “paid by advertiser” blog or statement by a celebrity or anyone, promoting a product or service, which is not clearly identified as an advertisement to the consumer will violate this clause of the ASCI code as that will be misleading the consumer by omission about the advertiser. In the past, the Consumer Complaints Redressal Council has upheld complaints against advertorials, which are not identified as such, under this clause. And therefore all paid communication by celebrities or anyone promoting a product or service must be identified as ads, otherwise they would violate the ASCI code.
  • “Celebrities and celebrity managers should take cognisance of the ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising - which requires them to have adequate knowledge of the ASCI code, particularly, Chapter I.4 quoted above,” says Shweta Purandare, sectary general, the Advertising Standards Council of India.’’

And this raises the question that back home, would our celebrities disclose if they are getting paid to endorse? “One should openly declare if they are getting paid to endorse a good or a service. Just look at the documentary made about the disaster that was Fyre Festival. That music festival was sold because few supermodels were paid to endorse it on their Instagram. Also, I think by being open, you gain trust of your followers”, says Karishma Kotak, TV presenter and a model.

Fiasco of the Fyre music Festival (2017)
  • In 2017, social media influencers such as Kendall Jenner, model Bella Hadid, model and actor Emily Ratajkowski were paid to promote a luxury music festival — The Fyre Festival — which they did not initially disclose. They were able to sell approximately 5,000 tickets. However, when the attendees turned up, they discovered the festival was horribly mismanaged and disorganised. The festival goers had no place to sleep or food to eat. An OTT platform recently made a documentary about the fiasco. Models Jenner and Hadid are facing possible subpoenas over missing funds.

Some celebrities think that subtle plug-ins by tagging the brand in an Instagram post is equivalent to a declaration. “No, all social media influencers need to openly declare that they are paid for it. By cleverly tagging, it won’t work”, says adman Prahlad Kakkar.

Twinkle Khanna praised a biscuit brand, while announcing it was an ad ( photo: Instagram/twinklerkhanna. )

It isn’t just about having a transparent social media policy; it’s also about owning up to the responsibility that comes with being a social media influencer. “The problem is the lack of accountability and responsibility. Once, celebrities and social media influencers are paid, they don’t care about the consequences. Just look at supermodels Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, who are facing possible subpoenas over Fyre Festival. If you are getting paid to endorse anything then say it and be ready to take responsibility if something goes wrong”, says rapper Raftaar.

Malaika Arora posted her picture naming a resort, minus a disclaimer. ( photo: Instagram/malaikaaroraofficial )

And what’s the law on celebrity advertising? “By concealing paid partnerships or paid advertisements on social media, celebrities in a sense abuse the trust their followers repose in them; not to mention that they are also attempting to evade the law, which casts a duty on them in the form of responsible advertising (as per the ASCI guidelines for celebrities in advertising, 2017). Full disclosure should be the norm in advertising as it is in the ultimate interest of the consumer”, says Arnav Narain, lawyer.

Dia Mirza’s social media account named a hotel, but didn’t say if it was an ad or not. ( photo: Instagram/diamirza )

Unfortunately, the problem with implementing of the law is that jurisdiction of social media is a grey area, unlike TV, print or radio.

First Published: Feb 04, 2019 11:25 IST