The Kardashian family is famous for broadcasting their private lives in lurid detail but one advocacy group says they don’t share enough when it comes to paid social media gigs.
Truth in Advertising recently sent a letter to family manager Kris Jenner and dozens of associated brands alleging that five members of the reality show tribe have repeatedly failed to disclose instances in which Instagram posts were paid for by an advertiser a violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s rules.
The letter specifically named Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner as offenders, as well as brands such as Puma, Fit Tea and Calvin Klein.
Like many celebrities, the Kardashians often use their popular social media accounts to plug brands in exchange for money.
Under the FTC’s rules, these paid posts must be clearly marked as such in order to avoid deceiving potential customers.
The agency tightened those guidelines earlier this month, telling Bloomberg that the most commonly used indicators #ad, #sp and #sponsored are not clear enough on their own.
Some of the Kardashian branded posts are sprinkled with these abbreviated disclosures, but others make no mention of a sponsorship. The Kardashians appear to have retroactively edited a few of the posts following the publication of the letter.
If the FTC does decide to look into the matter it wouldn’t be the first time a Kardashian has run afoul of a government agency on social media. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a scolding letter to Kim last summer over a morning sickness drug ad it saw as misleading.
Despite the FTC’s strict warnings, adherence to the disclosure rule seems to be somewhat scattered. On Snapchat, for instance, popular users only recently started marking ads at all. On Twitter, where space is limited, celebrities often flout the rule.
Stefania Pomponi, founder and president of an influencer marketing agency called Clever Girls, said she notices more violations among big-name celebrities than the less famous bloggers and personalities that make up the bulk of the industry.
“It’s not the mom blogger in the midwest who’s going to be the violation they’re trying to do the right thing,” she says. “They’re frustrated by the fact that celebrities like the Kardashians who basically live a Truman Show, completely sponsored life don’t disclose anything.”
Even if the FTC did decide to act, it can’t actually fine anyone; at most, the group can mandate an apology or, in extreme cases, force a customer reimbursement.
Advertising lawyer Jeffrey Greenbaum told Mashable in an earlier interview that the nebulous world of social media marketing has proven a headache for the FTC. In recent months, the agency seems to be making a concerted effort to crack down on offenders.