Celebrities in the UK are set to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) over their use of Twitter. In a controversy that began last year, it has emerged that many stars are being paid to tweet about brands and products.
In December 2010, government body the OFT launched a case against Handpicked Media, a PR company accused of paying celebrities to blog or tweet about products. As a result, the OFT moved to "prohibit any future promotion that does not clearly identify, in a manner prominently displayed with the editorial content such that it would be unavoidable to the average consumer, that the promotion has been paid for or otherwise remunerated."
Anything to declare?
It is now thought that the authority could bring court cases against the celebrities themselves who failed to declare they were paid to tweet. This form of social media marketing will be able to continue, but will echo the 'ad' or 'spon' disclaimer enforced by the US Federal Trade Commission. Promotional celebrity tweets are huge business in America, with reality TV star Kim Kardashian picking up a reported $10,000 (£6,443) per tweet.
UK celebrities who have taken to Twitter to sing the praises of their favourite products include:
- Lily Allen, who discussed the PlayStation Move and Grey Goose Vodka.
- Peter Andre, who was involved in the launch of Costa's Flat White coffee, then sent several tweets promoting the brand.
- Fashion designer Henry Holland who tweeted about a Range Rover he was allegedly given for free.
- Liz Hurley, the 'face' of Estee Lauder for the past 17 years, who has complimented the brand's cosmetics several times.
However, it remains unclear whether these celebrities were in fact paid to tweet, or whether the OFT will be investigating them.