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MADISON, CONN., Dec. 11, 2018 — Diageo’s Ciroc has experienced a meteoric rise in sales over the past decade thanks in part to a marketing strategy heavily focused on celebrity endorsements and promotion on social media. An investigation by truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org), however, reveals that the spirits giant has been misleading consumers with its tactics, specifically with undisclosed influencer marketing on Instagram. The ad watchdog has filed a deceptive marketing complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the agency to put a stop to Diageo’s misleading practices.
TINA.org has amassed more than 1,700 Instagram posts from 50 different Ciroc influencers promoting its vodka and brandy products – all of which lack clear and conspicuous disclosures of the influencers’ material connection to the alcohol brand as required by the FTC. More than a third of these posts come from Sean “Diddy” Combs, the company’s brand manager and chief marketing officer.
The FTC is clear in its endorsement guidelines that if someone has a material connection with a company — for example, a business or family relationship, a monetary payment, or the gift of free product — they must disclose that connection since it could affect a consumer’s opinion about the product. For space-cramped platforms such as Instagram, the guidelines state that starting a post with AD: or #ad would likely be effective.
Not only do these Ciroc ads omit necessary disclosures, the influencers’ posts bypass Instagram’s age-gating tools allowing the millions of minors with Instagram accounts full access to this type of marketing. In contrast, Instagram users must be at least 21 years old to view posts on Ciroc’s “restricted profile.”
Earlier this year, TINA.org published the findings of a separate investigation into DJ Khaled’s influencer marketing of alcohol, which included more than 200 Ciroc ads posted across various social media platforms including SnapChat. In response to the DJ Khaled findings, Diageo assured TINA.org that it was “committed to complying with all laws and regulations, including the FTC’s endorsement disclosure guidelines, as well as our rigorous marketing code and policies.”
“It’s time that Diageo starts acting like the responsible corporate citizen it says it is,” said TINA.org Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “And if it needs help learning how to comply with the law, TINA.org is confident that the FTC can teach the spirits giant the lessons it needs to learn.”
To read more about TINA.org’s investigation of Ciroc’s deceptive marketing, see: https://truthinadvertising.org/tina-org-files-ftc-complaint-against-diageo-regarding-its-ciroc-influencers/
Learn more about influencer marketing disclosure requirements here: https://truthinadvertising.org/social-media-influencer-disclosure-requirements/
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Rina Raphael, Los Angeles Times
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