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Hidden in plain sight: How social media blurs the line between testimony and advertising




Kim Kardashian West attends the Hype Energy Drinks U.S. Launch. Kim promotes many products via Instagram, but is she disclosing these #ads effectively?
Kim Kardashian West attends the Hype Energy Drinks U.S. Launch. Kim promotes many products via Instagram, but is she disclosing these #ads effectively?
Rick Diamond/Getty Images

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Fans of the Kardashian clan are used to seeing the sisters tout their latest beauty secret on Instagram, but are their endorsements candid testimonials, or adulterated advertisement?

Social media has made sponsored content more camouflaged  than ever before. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have made it difficult for the Federal Trade Commission to ensure paid content are labeled as advertisement. The FTC updated its guidelines in May 2015 to include social media disclosures: if a person is paid to promote a product, he or she must disclose that relationship with the company since it could affect a consumer’s opinion on the product.  

For social media sites, the guidelines state that starting a title with “AD:” or “#ad” would be effective. But a recent study by the non-profit group Truth in Advertising shows that many digital “influencers”  fail to disclose, correct, or remove paid ads to their followers, even after the non-profit filed complaints to F.T.C.

Host Larry Mantle sits down with Bonnie Patten, the executive director of Truth in Advertising, and Sasha Strauss, a brand management expert,  to talk about what sponsored content means for consumers as advertising goes viral.

Guests: 

Bonnie Patten, Executive director of Truth in Advertising.org, a non-profit, advertising watchdog organization.

Sasha Strauss, Managing director, founder at Innovation Protocol, a strategic brand management firm. Professor at UCLA & USC.  He tweets @SashaStrauss