Getting a celebrity to endorse a product is nothing new. We’ve all seen adverts featuring David Beckham etc, the idea being that this is supposed to make us want whatever it is too. Not sure it works for me, but the big brands spend mega bucks on such things so it must work (mustn’t it).
Of course, most endorsements are easily seen as adverts so those nice people in the Advertisement Standards Agency are not concerned, as no one is misled in thinking that young David really likes the ‘Smell for Men’ he is fronting for (although of course he might?).
However, what if a celebrity started Tweeting about how wonderful say the new 4*4 from Range Rover is. Sure they may have one and may think it is great, but what if they have been given one as a ‘payment’ for the Tweets? Would you rate the Tweets in the same way, in other words would you believe what the Tweet said if you knew the content was not coming from the heart, but instead perhaps the wallet?
This is the quandary that the ASA finds itself in. One one hand it wants to protect everyone, on the other hand it does not want to stifle advertisers. In Rovers case, it has said that it would act if there were complaints, which if upheld would result in the advertiser having to withdraw the Tweet and ones like it. It is, however, perhaps the negative publicity and loss of consumer confidence that brands are worried about most though.
The USA have taken a different view though, their Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines, these requiring that brands take steps to ensure that any Tweeter that has received payment in some form has to reveal this fact. The accepted method is to add ‘ad’ or ‘spon’ in the Tweet.
If you want to keep within the rules, then bear in mind the following advice. According to the Office of Fair Trading, if you don’t disclose such payment connections, then, ‘if it is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision they would not have taken otherwise’ you could fall foul of the Consumer Protection Regulations.
This issue is also shedding more light on the practice of some advertisers who place positive comments about their products on review sites using false persona’s as well as the other tricks that advertisers (and SEO companies?) are using these days?