Scott Disick is getting some heat these days. Last week, the reality star posted a sponsored Instagram post for Bootea, a weight loss supplement, and accidentally copied and pasted his instructions for posting within the comment box. #Oops.
Anyone who has seen at least 30 minutes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians–and admit it, most of us have–will say that the man had this recent wave of ridicule coming. But perhaps in this scenario, we should cut Disick some slack, or at least say thanks. Why?
Despite the Federal Trade Commission leveling more stringent guidelines for native ads and user-generated content, there have still been a number of very public transgressions from very reputable companies. The reason for this is likely ignorance and a generalized lack of understanding in the advertising community around what these guidelines are and how they impact influencer and native marketing efforts.
If the Kardashians, collectively, have one talent, it’s their ability to capture a headline. Disick’s copy-and-paste fail surely makes for a fantastic punchline on late night television, but more important, it has catapulted the rather dry topic of “disclosure” into the public discourse. And at the end of the day, this is positive news for marketers and consumers alike.
Here are three important influencer marketing lessons that Disick’s #fail has brought to the forefront.
Lesson No. 1: “Celebrity” endorsements play out differently in social media. If Disick’s shilling of Bootea would have played out on television, he wouldn’t have had to worry about disclosure. That’s because the FTC assumes that viewers inherently understand the context of celebrities within TV ads. Social media is a different beast entirely, though, since many celebrities use platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest to chronicle their personal lives, in addition to promoting their films, music and brand affiliations.
Recognizing this gray area, the FTC mandates that all online influencers, celebrities included, must use proper disclosure if they are being compensated for endorsing a brand or product. Moreover, “compensation” extends beyond sheer dollars and cents. Disclosure is required for situations in which there is a material connection between the brand and the creator, and perks can include coupons and free product, in addition to cold hard cash.
Lesson No. 2: When disclosure goes awry, the blame extends beyond the influencer. Disick was quick to fix his post, although the screenshot of his misstep quickly made its way around the Internet (and eventually to BuzzFeed’s front page). With most people pointing the finger at the reality star, however, it’s important to understand that the consequences of failing to comply with FTC guidelines extend to both the advertiser (brand) and its agency partners.
In fact, many agencies sign multiple-year consent orders with the FTC to ensure that they are following the proper practices across all of their client efforts. Fines on agencies for failing to adhere to disclosure guidelines can total several thousand dollars per post, so the stakes are high for partner companies that work with brands on these types of programs.
Lesson No. 3: Copy-and-paste creator partnerships are not effective. Let’s set aside the fact that Disick completely mucked up this post. Even if he were to execute the copy as intended, the content still would have felt forced and inauthentic. The best brand-creator partnerships are those that empower the influencer to lean on creativity and infuse the brand into his or her own storytelling–they don’t come about by brands mandating what to post and when.
With celebrities, this is, of course, a tougher sell, since Disick did not gain his following based on subject-matter expertise or his ability to create compelling content. He is simply a public figure who gained a mass following due to his role on a popular television show. For most social media creators, however, the best course of action is to provide guardrails while still allowing room for editorial freedom. This allows the creator to develop content that is authentic and more in line with the non-sponsored material his or her audience is accustomed to seeing.