THERE is nothing wrong with people being paid to promote products on social media.
Weirdly, for those of us who grew up before the internet took off, that’s an actual job now.
And who can blame people for saying: “‘Yes please” to money for doing not very much?
But there is something wrong if Instagram users aren’t aware the celebrities they follow are being paid thousands of pounds — or even hundreds of thousands — to promote the products they are “recommending”.
Advertisers know Instagram — which has a BILLION monthly users posting some 95million photos a day — is an incredibly powerful way of reaching young people.
The more followers a star has, the greater their selling power.
Kylie Jenner, who has 125million followers, is paid a whopping £750,000 for every sponsored post.
Under the 2008 UK Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading regulations, celebrities paid to plug products are supposed to make that clear.
But there are no simple guidelines.
So while some celebs might say “sponsored” or “#ad” on a post, others are less open about it.
That is why the Competition & Markets Authority conducted an investigation.
And this week 16 British celebrities and “influencers” were found to have failed to follow consumer protection guidelines.
While all agreed to change their ways, none was taken to court where they might have faced fines or even jail time.
Is a rap on the knuckles really an adequate deterrent?
“Influencers” might say the clue is in the name. They are paid to inspire you to buy stuff.
Most insist they only endorse products they actually believe in — and we’d all hope they take their responsibility seriously.
But it is easy to see how an offer of, say, £100,000 to endorse something they “sort of” believe in might make it harder to hang on to those principles.
Equally, if guidelines aren’t strictly enforced, you can understand the temptation to convey the impression that you just happen to really like a particular laxative herbal tea, say, or a moisturiser that gives you a “glow”.
It’s a grey area. And you might ask why it matters.
But given recent news about the negative impact social media can have on the mental health of young people — and young women in particular — regulation of this brave new world affects us all.
I need only point to another big story this week.
Schoolgirl Molly Russell was 14 when she took her own life after showing “no obvious signs” of severe mental health issues.
Her family later found she had been viewing material on social media linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.
OBSESSED WITH CELEBS
Her father even went as far as accusing Instagram of “helping to kill her”.
Social media makes it so easy to tap into someone’s daily life, their home-decor proclivities and their innermost thoughts.
The intimate nature of Instagram lets you feel like these influencers are your friends, and the products they rave about their personal recommendations, not the outcome of a business deal.
This is a real problem. But the mistake is much harder to make if adverts are clearly labelled as such.
Part of the problem is how obsessed with celebrities our young people have become.
When I was growing up, my main influences (we didn’t have influencers then) were my parents and my friends.
Now, young people are influenced by people they will never meet.
Some of these people, dare I say it, are talentless nobodies.
You might argue you would have to be naive not to realise they are selling you something.
Perhaps young people are not as cynical as the likes of me.
And that is why regulation is key.
A Fun-gi, but we’re paying
Tracked down by this paper, James Clarke (Fungi’s real name) claimed his monthly payments had been more than halved and the all-in-one benefit was causing “hell” for him and others like him . . . because their booze budget has been cut.
Fungi was claiming £500 a month to spend on food and sundries. But this was slashed to £229 – which doesn’t cover the £160 a month he and his partner spend on strong cider.
His rent, meanwhile, is paid in full via a separate taxpayer-funded handout.
Fungi also says his drinking habit means he can’t work. Sorry, what?
Here’s another way of looking at it. People who work for eight hours a day don’t have the time to down three litres of cider a day.
If Mr Clarke got a job, he might recover some of his self-esteem – and probably save his life in the process.
Just to be clear – I BELIEVE in the benefits system.
But it was invented to help people get back on their feet, to help those who can’t help themselves because of illness or disability.
It should be a short-term measure, not a lifestyle choice.
In the meantime, the rest of us go to work to pay for this man’s rent and booze.
All because he can’t be bothered to sort himself out.
No wonder people get angry.
In fact, I suspect most readers will have steam coming out of their ears.
This man must start taking responsibility for himself.
Another car-crash interview
I SUPPOSE it was worth a shot for Diane Abbott to complain that Fiona Bruce was “badly briefed” and that her treatment as a panellist on Question Time was racist.
But she can’t blame Fiona for her own incompetence in answering questions – and not just on Question Time.
There are so many car-crash interviews to choose from . . . although the one in which Diane suggested police officers could be paid £30 a year springs to mind.
Bullying Jason on thin Ice
WHAT a nasty piece of work Dancing On Ice judge Jason Gardiner seems.
We expect the judges to give feedback.
And we know it won’t all be good.
But his comment to Gemma Collins last week – “We are not going to see big lifts from you” – came across as body-shaming.
Because his real point is that she is overweight, right?
It’s shocking, really. I’m surprised ITV allowed it.
The Body’s breakfast sounds miserable
THE secret behind Elle Macpherson’s phenomenal bod has been revealed.
In an interview, she said it all comes down to . . . late breakfasts.
Hmmm. No matter when we eat breakfast, most of us will never come close to looking how she does at 54.
Actually, forget breakfast times. What struck me is her diet seems to contain just FIVE ingredients . . . one of which is nut cheese.
And the only liquid is water.
Elle looks great.
But by God, she must be miserable.
Prem still footie’s top dog
THE Premier League’s popularity continues to soar, as a study into attendances across Europe proves.
And I was immensely proud to see West Ham ranked seventh by attendance in all of Europe last year.
We are up there with the Continent’s elite, in a table headed by Barcelona.
And that will only get better now the capacity of the London Stadium is up to 60,000 – adding to the incredible support we get from what I believe are the league’s best fans.
This week, accountancy firm EY published a report on the impact the Premier League has on our economy.
It generates £3.3billion a year in tax for the Exchequer, supporting 100,000 jobs and contributing £7.6billion overall to the country’s GDP.
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Last season, Premier League players paid more than £1billion in taxes.
But never mind the money.
It’s still the best league in the world.