- Japanese artists who promoted Disney's movie "Frozen 2" on Twitter said they were told to not disclose that the company had paid them to endorse the animated movie. Their statements conflicted with Disney's claim that the omission wasn't intentional, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- One artist with 100,000 Twitter followers reviewed the movie favorably in a tweet that depicted characters from "Frozen 2" and said the agency that hired him for the campaign requested his work not be labeled as a promotion. Other artists apologized for not telling their followers they were paid to promote the movie, the Journal reported.
- Disney last week said the absence of a disclosure was a lapse, a claim that the artists contradicted in their tweets. Amid growing backlash, the company this week published a second apology, this time revealing it had paid artists on several occasions to promote its movies without a disclosure. It also said those cases failed to comply with internal marketing guidelines.
Disney's admission that it didn't comply with its own policy of disclosing paid endorsements in marketing campaigns is embarrassing, but doesn't necessarily violate Japanese laws against false or misleading advertising. The country hasn't issued guidance on how to handle paid posts by social influencers, as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has done amid the rapid growth of the influencer industry.
The Disney case highlights the importance for mobile marketers to disclose those paid endorsements to avoid damaging publicity, at the very least. It appears unlikely that the company will face any fines in Japan, where public relations people say the practice of paying influencers without a disclosure is common, the Journal reported.
That's not the case in the U.S., where the FTC has cracked down on influencers who don't disclose their financial relationships with sponsors. Two years ago, the agency settled its first complaint against two social media influencers for not disclosing their connection to a business they touted to online followers. Trevor "TmarTn" Martin and Tom "Syndicate" Cassell, two influencers in the gaming industry, were charged with deceptively endorsing CSGO Lotto without disclosing their part ownership of the gambling website, the FTC said.
Since then, the FTC also has published more comprehensive guidelines for the social influencer industry. Last month, the agency released its latest publication, "Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers," on its website to help influencers to understand the rules on disclosures about endorsements. The FTC guide emphasizes that influencers are responsible for the disclosures, and provides examples of effective and ineffective disclosures.