When Kim Kardashian took to Instagram this week with a new #YeezySeason6 hashtag attached to seemingly real-life photos, hype swelled around Kanye West’s Yeezy clothing label. But is it authentic exposure or product endorsement?
The Instagram posts have roots in Kardashian’s paparazzi Yeezy lookbook from December 2017, candidly capturing celebrities, such as Paris Hilton, performing regular errands like heading to the off-licence or picking up a McDonald’s.
The posts form a typical, yet well-worked, piece of influencer marketing. The tabloid style invites clicks and maximises exposure, and viewers were unlikely to have recognised the images as adverts.
However, assuming the campaign was orchestrated to advertise the latest collection of West’s Yeezy clothing line – and its subjects were compensated in some way, even with free products – it could be in breach of anti-competition laws on both sides of the Atlantic by failing to make clear the posts are promoting Yeezy.
What does the law say?
In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the body responsible for guaranteeing transparency in marketing practices. According to its guidance on influencer marketing, using a clear identifier, such as “#ad”, alerts consumers to the commercial nature of a post.
It states: “Consumers should always be aware when they are being advertised to. Failure to disclose the commercial relationship an influencer may leave a brand at risk of a complaint to the ASA.”
If an influencer has presented a brand in an authentic way, it is not considered advertising.
“However when the brand has control over the content of the post and rewards the influencer with a payment, free gift, or other perk, the post becomes an ad.”
The ASA’s CAP code was designed to grapple the rise of influencer marketing and ensure transparency around new advertising mediums.
The United States’ body for protecting consumer interests, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has similar guidelines.
The New York Times recent “Follower Factory” investigation also raised questions around online transparency, revealing the paid-for social media followings of public figures and the sheer volume of bot accounts on platforms like Twitter.
Coupled with the blurring of lines on influencer Instagram feeds, as seen with Yeezy Season 6, Business Advice expert and founder of Grid Law, David Walker believes brands could be soon be held to greater account.
“Small business owners need to remember that they are ultimately responsible for what influencers say about their brands, and how they’re promoted in their social media,” Walker said.
“It’s easy to think, that you wont get caught but that’s risky. With time, the ASA will clamp down on these activities, probably starting with high profile celebrities and athletes, but then they will start pursuing smaller business.
“If you add to this the news which came out recently about how many influencers are buying followers, I can see the whole of influencer marketing having a major shake up in the near future. That’s a good thing, because ultimately it will lead to more transparency and we will have more trust in what we see online.”
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