Advertisements have always been a consistent aspect of media; they are an integral part of the functioning and funding. Advertisements have become pervasive in our society, which has caused most of us to tune them out. We change the TV channel when ads come on, download AdBlocker to our browsers, and fondly remember the time when YouTube was ad free. But what about the advertisements we don’t know we’re looking at? There are advertisements hidden in the Instagram accounts of your favorite celebrities and “influencers.” Brands will pay handsomely for celebrity endorsements in order to have access to their fans, which is not a new practice by any means but is more effective via social media. Celebrity Instagram endorsements have the potential to be more impactful because “utilizing his or her actual social channels creates a unique and personal allure to fans and followers” (Bradic 2015).
The Kardashian-Jenners are a family that the public loves to hate and hates to love. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, it is undeniable that their media coverage and fan following is extensive; “collectively [they] reach more than 316 million followers on Instagram” (Close 2016). With that reach and influence, the Kardashian-Jenners certainly have the ability to affect the sales of a product. Kylie Jenner, among other things, is known for changing her hair color frequently, but how does she maintain the integrity of her hair? She takes Sugarbear Hair vitamins, which I know because I follow her on Instagram. Kylie has posted multiple pictures of herself with these gummy vitamins and among other celebrities inspired an ENews article which states they tested SugarBear Hair gummies “for the ‘gram…well, actually, because of the ‘gram” (Burgan 2016). Recently, the Kardashian-Jenners have been scrutinized by a non-profit, “Truth in Advertising, for failing to disclose that certain posts on their social media accounts were in fact advertisements” (Close 2016).
Celebrities have a unique ability to reach and persuade people because of previously established credibility and/or adoration. When a brand uses a celebrity endorsement, “sales will likely increase 4% on average” (Bradic 2015). But the brand isn’t the only one making money. If you have millions of followers, Instagram has the potential to be a very lucrative social medium; “Captiv8 says someone with 3m-7m followers can charge, on average… $75,000 for a post on Instagram” (The Economist 2016). The nature of social media makes people more susceptible to advertisements, especially when they are not clearly labeled as such. Brands and celebrities both profit from their followers because “social media provides us unprecedented insights into the lives of celebrities [which] means it also has the power to make these endorsements seem all the more believable” (Bradic 2015). There is no doubt that social media affect spending habits; Roesler (2015) reported, “47% of Millennials are influenced in their purchases by social media.” The only way to avoid being fooled by an Instagram ad is to think critically about what you see and ask questions like “who is benefitting”?
Author: Kate Carr (University of Vermont) – Psychology Major and Consumer and Advertising Minor.
Faculty Advisor: Rob Williams, Ph. D. (University of Vermont) – Media and Communications Professor.
Bradic, L. (2015, Sept 30). Celebrity endorsements on social media are driving sales and winning over fans.
Burgan, R. (2016, Jul 13). Instagram made us do it: We tried the hair vitamins Kylie Jenner and co. swear by.
Close, K. (2016, Aug 23). The Kardashians will have to tell you if they’re trying to sell you something on Instagram.
Economist. (2016, Oct 17). Celebrities’ endorsement earnings on social media.
Roesler, P. (2015, May 29). How social media influences consumer buying decisions.