Social Media Expert Kris Ruby Weighs In
Kim Kardashian West received a stern warning from FDA officials stating that her social media post was misleading and failed to communicate any risk information. Whether is a drug label of social media, FDA rules apply if it is the manufacturer who is paying the celebrity for endorsement. The post was since taken down.
“By omitting the risks associated with Diclegis, the social media post misleadingly fails to provide material information about the consequences that may result from the use of the drug and suggests that it is safer than has been demonstrated,” the warning letter reads.
This Instagram marketing fiasco brings up a larger issue in healthcare marketing- do the FTC’s guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising adequately address social media promotion today?
The Legal Facts- what you need to know
The FDA previously issued guidelines about celeb endorsements stating that they must be bona fide users of the product and disclose any financial information. On a TV commercial, that makes sense and has been accepted, but in social media, it is still a fairly new concept.
Celebrities have been promoting prescription drugs for years with ads that include a long list of safety issues. However, when it comes to social media, the rules are very vague. Here’s why:
Space Issue- Social media has opened up a new world of promotional opportunities. Even through the rules are the same, there is room for only 140 characters on Twitter. What celebrity wants to use that limited amount of space to post all of the potential issues associated with a drug?
Coolness Factor- There is an art to celebrity testimonials on Instagram marketing. It completely takes out the coolness factor when celebrities start posting #PaidForThis or #WarningYouCouldDieFromThisDrug. The art of the celeb endorsement is that it is supposed to seamlessly integrate with the celebrities every day life on social media. The second they start adding these rules/regulations to it, it looks entirely spammy and damages their credibility with their followers.
It is also interesting to note that if Kardashian or any celebrity decides on their own to promote a product that they are not financially tied to, she would not have gotten in trouble.
“We all have first amendment rights and can say whatever we want — but once you are paid by a company it’s the manufacturer who has to make sure the information is accurate and not misleading,” former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler told NBC news. “Once you are paid, you are under FDA rules.”
Here’s a suggested Tweet for such a drug: “NoFocus (rememberine HCl) for mild to moderate memory loss-May cause seizures in patients with a seizure disorder www.nofocus.com/risk [134/140]”
While in theory this meets the FTC’s criteria, any social media expert with half a brain advising a client on Instagram marketing or celeb endorsement deals would never encourage their client to post this. It looks entirely spammy and damages their credibility.
Ruby’s Suggestion for Celebs:
Stick to traditional advertising for FDA endorsement deals. If you like a product on social media and want to endorse it to your fans, you are better off promoting it because you actually believe in it rather then being financially tied to it and damaging your credibility.