Assume: Ad

May 01, 2018

Kaitlyn Rassi | Student

As I scrolled through my Instagram feed this morning, I stopped to hover over a fashion blogger's photo of a new lipstick line from Tom Ford. Before I even bothered to read the photo's caption, I assumed it was an ad. When I thought about it more, I almost always assume a photo or a post that blatantly shows a product or highlights a brand, is an advertisement. As an integrated marketing communications major, I assume influencers' posts are automatically ads because I'm naturally just more aware of ads and how they make money. To the average Instagram user, it's not always obvious when a post is sponsored.

Because the accountsthat I follow on Instagram are a good mix of my personal friends, influencers, and brands, a good portion of my newsfeed is dedicated to sponsored posts. As someone that is studying advertising and knows the clever ways native ads can trick the user into thinking it's not sponsored content, I tend to tune out sponsored posts more than the average person.

When I see a post with a product in it, I'm genuinely surprised when I get to the end of the caption and it says something like "this is not sponsored, I just really love this product!".

I believe true honesty and transparency among influencers are becoming rarer because they can easily get paid by the brand for saying the same thing. So how does one find the balance between earning a living and maintaining user loyalty?

The best influencers build trust and brand authenticity through real, genuine posts about their life, interests, and loves. With a newsfeed saturated with ad content, the occasional unsponsored ad is refreshing and makes the viewer trust the influencer even more. In my eyes, if someone is willing to tell me which makeup products they use for free, they truly believe in the products and also wouldn't lead their followers astray if they want them to keep coming back for their opinion. When a post is sponsored, it's important that influencers disclose in the description that it is in fact, paid for by the brand. Full disclosure does not verge on the side of overkill when it comes to capturing the millennial generation that strongly values transparency and authenticity. The smartest influencers with the strongest follower base combine both honesty and their immense power as a social media presence to successfully guide consumers towards a purchase.


Kaitlyn Rassi, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Spring 2018 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question:When an influencer reposts a brand's ad or Instagram picture, do you think it's obvious that it's an ad? Or do people scroll by too quickly to notice that it wasn't the influencer's personal post? Should influencers include extra disclosures in their descriptions just to be on the safe side, or is that overkill?

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