Case in point: This week, a sponsored post made its way out into
the wild when celebrity Nicole Richie, who has nearly 750,000
followers, posed in a photo while using a hair product made by
Usually the accompanying copy with one of her posts is a lewd or
cheeky comment, or perhaps an emoji symbol. But this time it said:
"Ad: My new don't-leave-home-without-it product? Moroccan Infusion
Styling Oil from @SuaveBeauty! Check out ways to add brilliant
shine to your style here: bit.ly/XDJOkp." The link was to a
microsite by Suave that contains videos
introducing users to their new products.
A Unilever representative confirmed that the deal was done as
part of its partnership with Ms. Richie, not via Facebook or
Unilever is the 25th-largest advertiser in the country, spending
$1.3 billion on domestic advertising alone, according to the Ad Age
Datacenter. But the Suave brand in 2011, the last full year of
data, spent about $30 million, down significantly from about $45
million the year before. As it pulls back a bit on measured media,
Instagram is currently presenting a way to interact with a lot of
consumers in Suave's target demo for free.
Instances of celebrities incorporating the brands they represent
into their Instagram photos are growing, but few are labeled as
clearly as the Suave example.
For instance, LeBron James recently posted a
picture to his 2.2 million followers of his feet in Nike
sneakers, with the sales-y message "These are simply the best!!
Ultra comfy and can wear them with anything. I'm ordering 100 pair
right now. #kicks #Nike #family"
A recent post by Beyonce Knowles (3.2 million
followers) shows the singer in a pop-art-style collage with a can
of Pepsi, the soda brand
for which she is now "brand ambassador." And
Instagram's reigning queen, Kim Kardashian, used her feed to show
her 7.6 million followers a picture of her own branded tanning lotion, and
directing users to buy it at Ulta stores.
None of these promotional posts divulges in the text that the
pictures are ads, which could run afoul of the Federal Trade
Commission's guidelines. Those rules stipulate that social-media posts contain a
disclosure if they're an actually an ad.
And then there's the matter of whether such posts will translate
into sales for brands.
The post by Ms. Richie, the daughter of Lionel Richie and a
staple on red carpets, accumulated nearly 26,000 likes as of this
story, but the comments were mixed. Wrote one person: "Ads on
instagram will ruin the app just like Facebook." Others expressed
their distaste using thumbs-down emoji symbols. Then there were the
ones who stated they were skeptical about someone with as money,
such as Ms. Richie, using such a low-cost product. "U don't use
Suave! Lol" said one, and another: "I don't believe you use suave
haha, that shit is awful!" But several fans merely commented on how
beautiful her hair looked and how pretty she is.
Contributing: Jack Neff