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Instagram Will Add ‘Paid Partnership’ Tag to Sponsored Posts, After FTC’s Warnings to Celebrity Users

Variety logo Variety 6/14/2017 Todd Spangler
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Instagram said it will add a new “paid partnership with” sub-header on sponsored posts and stories — a move that comes two months after the Federal Trade Commission sent out letters to dozens of celebrities warning them that their paid posts on the platform didn’t include sufficient disclosures.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it is initially working with “a small number of creators and businesses” on the paid-partnership tags. It plans to make the branded-content tools more widely available in the coming months along with an official policy and enforcement guidelines.

“Partnerships between community creators and businesses are an important part of the Instagram experience, and a healthy community should be open and consistent about paid partnerships,” the company said in a blog post Wednesday.

The new effort from Instagram do improve transparency about sponsored content comes after the FTC in April sent out letters to more than 90 influencers and marketers notifying them that they’re required by law to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose the commercial relationship. The agency said it took the step after reviewing numerous Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes and other influencers.

According to Instagram, the new “paid partnership with” tool will let creators quickly tag the business they have a relationship with.

Sponsored content on Instagram, which in April said has more than 700 million monthly active users, is prolific: a search on the hashtag “#sponsored” returns more than 762,000 posts on the platform.

Here’s an example of what the new sub-header looks like, in posts sponsored by Volvo on @songofstyle, the Instagram account of author and influencer Aimee Song (who has 4.7 million followers):

According to the FTC, in some of the letters sent to Instagram users and marketers, the agency specifically noted that disclosures like “#sp,” “Thanks [Brand],” or “#partner” in a post “are not sufficiently clear” to indicate to an average user that the post is sponsored.

The FTC also pointed out that on mobile devices, Instagram posts display only the first three lines of text — meaning that even if disclosures are included, consumers won’t see them unless they click to expand the text. The agency did not identify which Instagram users or marketers it sent the letters to.

The new “paid partnership with” sub-header would address those specific concerns by FTC. Plus, it has the added benefit to Instagram and its partners of letting them more easily track the performance sponsored content.

Last summer, the Kardashian-Jenner clan was singled out by a watchdog group over sponsored Instagram posts that weren’t labeled as such. The group, Truth in Advertising, claimed it found more than 100 Instagram posts on family members’ accounts that were paid product placements that were not disclosed as advertising.

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