Hashtags are symbiotic

Feb 22, 2018

Student | Nick Janner

As someone who is pursuing advertising as a career, I see this question in two different ways.

First, I do not believe that the law should require sponsors on Instagram to use a hashtag such as #ad or #sponsored because, by definition, advertising is paid media with the intent of persuasion. We see advertisements everywhere, but most often, there is no label or disclaimer that identifies a poster, a commercial, or even a magazine placement as an advertisement. This is because the company has purchased this placement for their own intent. Therefore, if they purchase a post on Instagram, the company should be held to the same legal standard across any platform that they advertise on, which would not require the posting to be labeled as an ad.

Secondly, the use of the hashtags #ad or #sponsored can be a beneficial relationship between the advertiser and the consumer. The consumer is approached in an ethical manner that provides them with the information that the post they are viewing could have a bias narrative due to the payment of the sponsor. However, Instagram allows sponsors to link with the company through a tag, which then allows the company full access to the data of the paid post. This allows the company the ability to see the effectiveness of their paid post because they can see the click-through rate of their tag from the sponsor directly. Advertising is an industry that runs on the ability to track and measure data, such as click-through rates so that they can provide the ROI and prove that it was a beneficial place to put their money.

Since Instagram will provide this data to companies and advertising agencies, they are encouraging sponsors to use hashtags such as #ad or #sponsored. Therefore, I do not believe that sponsors should be required by law to place these hashtags. However, I would encourage sponsors to use hashtags for paid content because it will result in a clearer grasp on the revenue that they could produce as a sponsor, which in return could raise the amount of money that they can ask for in the future.


Nick Janner, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Spring 2018 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question:Do Instagrammers really need to use hashtags like #ad or #sponsored? Isn't that tacky? Can't people tell that it's sponsored content without them?

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