Ad Alert


Sneaker company modifies sponsored social media post following inquiry.

On social media, it’s getting harder to tell who’s behind product reviews and recommendations. Take the InStyle post above with the word “Sponsored” in faint gray font under the publisher’s name. Does that mean the post was sponsored by InStyle or by Cariuma?

As a recent inquiry by the National Advertising Division found, “sponsored” can mean more than one thing.

While The National Advertising Division (NAD) is the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. didn’t review the InStyle post, it looked at three similar sponsored social media posts promoting Cariuma sneakers and in a decision issued last week concluded that none of the posts made clear that Cariuma, and not the publishers, “selected and paid for each amplified social media post.”

With regard to one of the publishers, The Quality Edit, NAD noted that Cariuma wields outsized influence as the sneaker company “retains full editorial control over the creative content with TQE and must approve any content before publication.”

NAD recommended that Cariuma clearly and conspicuously disclose its material connections to the publishers, which also included Travel + Leisure, published by Dotdash Meredith, the same company that publishes InStyle. Cariuma agreed to comply.

Go deeper

While the InStyle post, which captured this week, uses Facebook’s built-in disclosure tool to indicate that the post is sponsored, the FTC’s Endorsement Guides state that the use of such tools alone might not be effective at disclosing paid endorsements with brands. If the disclosure is easy to miss, for example, it’s unlikely to do the job.

The post links to an article on the InStyle website titled, “Alexandra Daddario Stepped Out in the Comfy White Sneakers I’ve Worn Non-Stop the Last 6 Months.” (Despite the time-sensitive headline, the article was originally published over a year ago, two days after the actress shared the photo used in the sponsored post on her Instagram page.) But in a disclaimer under the headline and author’s byline, InStyle reveals that:

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation.

The disclaimer ends with a link to “learn more” and clicking on that link directs to a page that further states that, “We may receive affiliate commissions on products purchased through our content, but our reviews and recommendations are purely editorial.”

However, the process through which some products end up with affiliate links and others don’t is not fully explained. Do InStyle writers know which products might generate the company revenue when they’re making recommendations? reached out to Dotdash Meredith and Cariuma for comment. While we have yet to hear back from either company, we have started seeing the InStyle post edited to indicate that it is “Sponsored by Cariuma,” though the words appear at the bottom of the post and in a similar light-colored font as the built-in “Sponsored” disclosure above it.

Find more of our coverage on affiliate marketing here.

Our Ad Alerts are not just about false and deceptive marketing issues, but may also be about ads that, although not necessarily deceptive, should be viewed with caution. Ad Alerts can also be about single issues and may not include a comprehensive list of all marketing issues relating to the brand discussed.

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