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When do celebrity endorsements on social media run afoul of the FTC?

August 2015

Jesse Saivar, chair of Greenberg Glusker’s Intellectual Property Group, was quoted in an August 26, 2015, Daily Journal article, "Endorsements on social media run afoul of FTC," raising concerns of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations, potential compliance issues and truth in advertising.

Advertisers want celebrities to post endorsements on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so that the endorsements seem more organic, a philosophy Saivar said directly contradicts that of the federal government. "The very reason the endorsements on social media are so sought after is the very thing the FTC is trying to prevent," he said. 

Saivar went on to say that the FTC guidelines for endorsements require that the celebrity actually use the product or service, that their opinions in the endorsement be honest and that there must be disclosure when it's not otherwise obvious that there's a relationship between the endorser and the brand.

“That's where social media really makes this more complicated," Saivar said. "If there's a celebrity in a TV commercial talking about Ford, it's clearly obvious. On the other hand, if a celebrity mentions on his Facebook page that he loves his Ford truck, it's not so obvious.”

Saivar said being compliant isn't difficult, but it's still a tough sell for some clients. "It's not that hard to start a Facebook post with 'Ad:' or put '#sponsored' in a tweet, but that kind of defeats the whole purpose of it," he said. "I can't force them to comply, but I've got to make sure my client understands the risk at least."