The Importance of Following FDA, FTC Regulations on Social Media in Celebrity Marketing

Kim Kardashian Diclegis instagram

Kardashian’s tweet is a reminder for pharmaceutical companies about social media.

At the end of every drug commercial comes the long list of health risks stated by the narrator.  This is a requirement enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for all drug advertisements, and being an international celebrity as big as Kim Kardashian does not omit you from this regulation.

The FDA forced Kim Kardashian to recall a testimonial advertisement that she posted on her Instagram and Twitter about the morning sickness drug Diclegis. In the caption, she mentions positive effects of Diclegis such as, “I felt a lot better,” and, “It’s been studied and there was no increased risk to the baby.”  However, what Kardashian failed to mention was any of the drug’s risks or side effects.

A Warning Letter was sent on Aug. 7 to the executive vice president of Duchesnay, Inc., the pharmaceutical company that owns Diclegis. Among stating risks and facts that the posts failed to mention, the FDA requested that Duchesnay, “immediately cease misbranding DICLEGIS,” (aka take down the post and post ads with all appropriate information in the future). The letter also demanded a written response by Duchesnay by Aug. 21, and so far no response has been released.

Ads about drugs aren’t the only type of industry that has rules to follow. In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated their digital advertising guidelines, titled .com Disclosure, which stated that all digital media forms, including social media, must follow FTC advertisements and endorsement regulations.

The .com Disclosure particularly concerns, “space constrained screens and social media platforms,” as it obviously poses a challenge to fit all required material in a short 140 character tweet.

In regards to testimonials and endorsements, the main guidelines that the FTC focused on are:

  1. The post must “clearly and conspicuously” disclose that it is a paid endorsement, and a link to a disclosure is not usually enough. The document recommends using “Ad:” or “#ad” as a short way to noticeably disclose the information.
  2. The post must make clear what the average results are for the product, not just how it worked for the celebrity. Their example of a weight loss drug suggests saying, “Typical loss: 1 lb/wk.”

Unfortunately, as in the case of Duchesnay, it is the brand that has to deal with consequences by the FDA or FTC when a celebrity violates the regulations on their accounts. Some online celebrity endorsements have ignored the guidelines and not seen any repercussions (yet), like Kourtney Kardashian’s ex-husband Scott Disick’s post about Express Smile Atlanta. But, even non-high-profile people who post endorsements can cause backlash for companies. The Deutsch LA ad agency caused their client, Sony, to refund consumer money after they had employees post promotional tweets.

For more information, visit the FTC Endorsement Guides.

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