The Danish consumer ombudsman has recently notified the police of an incident of concealed advertising through a Danish singer’s Instagram profile.

The company Unilever manufactures the toothpaste ‘Pepsodent’ and has hired the media bureau MemeCph for the purpose of marketing the product. Unilever initiated contact with the Danish singer and entered into an oral agreement after which the singer would post pictures of Pepsodent toothpaste on her Instagram profile attached the hashtag #Pepsodent. Pepsodent’s own Instagram profile, administered by MemeCph, consequently commented on the pictures and “liked” them. A total of seven posts containing images of the toothpaste followed by the hashtag were posted on the singer’s personal profile.

The consumer ombudsman noted the following:

  • It was not clear for consumers whether the seven posts were an advertisement for Pepsodent, while the posts were not clearly marked as such, for instance by using words like “commercial”, “advertisement” or “sponsored content”.
  • It was not sufficient that the posts were followed by the hashtag “#Pepsodent”. Moreover Instagram did not prevent the addition of the word “advertisement” together with #Pepsodent.

She further elaborated: “The consumers must not be on doubt when they see an advertisement. In this case, the posts on Instagram had not been clearly marked as an advertisement, and they were posted together with the singer’s private posts. This made it very difficult for the reader to see, that the posts were an advertisement for Pepsodent.”

She concluded: “When it comes to advertising on social media, it is not sufficient, that the post is accompanied by a hashtag with the name of the product or company. It must be clearly marked as an advertisement. This case emphasizes that point.”

The consumer ombudsman has, also recently, issued guidelines for bloggers in regards of concealed advertisement. These guidelines also apply to advertising on social media and can be found here (in Danish).

By Peter Lind Nielsen and Mathias Bartholdy

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