image: @TropRouge Instagram image: @TropRouge Instagram

Paris-based beauty brand, L’Oreal, has tapped 15 digital influencers to take part in a yearlong program, “L’Oréal League,” in which they will create content and promote L’Oréal across their social channels. WWD announced the deal on Monday and many of the bloggers, which include Wendy Nguyen of Wendy’s Lookbook; Mary Phillips; Stephanie Lee of Beauty by Lee; Grace Atwood; Christina Caradona of Trop Rouge; Sona Gasparian of Simply Sona; Carly Cristman; Monica Veloz of Monica Style Muse; Liza Lash; Jade Chapman; Katy Bellotte of Hello Katy; Jessi Malay, and Ashley Brooke of Ashley Brooke Designs, are already violating federal law.

Per WWD: “From blogger Pari Ehsan of Paridust to former Miss USA Olivia Culpo, the partners will create content and promote L’Oréal Paris across their social channels.” Sources told WWD that compensation is considerably lower than [blogger Kristina] Bazan’s blockbuster deal with L’Oreal, but the brand is still paying influencers anywhere from $40,000 to more than $100,000, depending on reach and engagement, to partake in the program.

As we have told you in the past, posting endorsements – that have come about as a result of a connection between the endorser and the underlying brand – without proper disclosure are violations of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) Act. The same is true for the posting of sponsored content (regardless of the medium). In particular, the FTC has held that in order to avoid violating the FTC Act by way of misleading or deceptive social media or native posts, promoting parties should use “#Ad”, “Ad:”, or “Sponsored” disclosures to indicate that a post or link within a post includes compensated content. As such, if a post – whether it be in a magazine, on a blog, or on social media – is the result of some form of compensation or partnership and is likely to appear to consumers as anything other than an ad, it requires a “clear and conspicuous disclosure” alerting consumers to the fact that it is an advertisement.

With this in mind, “#Sp” will be deemed to be an improper disclosure because it is likely not clear enough to enable consumers able to differentiate advertising from other content. “Spon” is similarly not a preferred disclosure, according to the FTC. Moreover, “#collaboration” and “#partnership” will also likely fail to meet the required level of disclosure, as such terms do not provide enough clarity in terms of the nature of the posting and the relationship between the parties.

As such, Christina Caradona of Trop Rouge is already in violation, posting a number of L’Oreal-sponsored posts without complying with the disclosure guidelines. For instance, she opts to use “#LOrealPartner” in connection with paid-for posts. As you may know, disclosure in such a roundabout manner is significant, as it is prevalent amongst bloggers and brands, alike, and for a very specific reason. An array of recent studies has shown that millennials do not respond most heavily when they know something is an ad. As a whole, they tend to prefer more authentic forms of marketing, hence, the rise of personal style blogs – which were long deemed to be more reliable and unhindered by the pressures of advertisers than traditional media outlets – in the first place.

 image: @graceatwood Instagram image: @graceatwood Instagram

In theory, millennial consumers are much more likely to engage with a brand or blogger/influencer and purchase something promoted by said blogger/influencer if they think the endorsement is authentic, and not because the individual was paid to endorse it. As such, it is a very common tactic for bloggers to either disclose in a way that is not obvious or fail to disclose material connections altogether for this exact purpose – both of which amount to willful violations of the FTC Act.

Also running afoul of the law in connection with L’Oreal’s campaign: Olivia Culpo, Grace Atwood and Stephanie Lee, who have posted L’Oreal-specific photos with the “#lorealleague” hashtag and without any form of disclosure. It is also worth mentioning that Pari Ehsan of Paridust, Wendy Nguyen, Carly Cristman, Liza Lash, Jessi Malay, and Ashley Brooke are in violation for other sponsored posts and so, will likely post for L’Oreal without proper disclosures … because #RepeatOffenders. Note: Not everyone is in the wrong, though. Sona Gasparian of Simply Sona appears to be quite diligent in the labeling of recent sponsored posts, including “#ad” in her captions, as is Katy Bellotte.

So, bloggers, L’Oreal, and whatever PR company (as some PR companies have been known to explicitly ask bloggers to not include #ad in their paid-for posts) is involved here, ensure that proper disclosures are made. With the FTC paying an increased amount of attention to social media influencers and advertisers, you’ll be glad you did.