Manhattan-based influencer Tinkerbelle the Dog could live forever — at least that’s what her social media ad for pet-cloning service ViaGen might suggest.
“I am a one of a kind pup. That’s why my human chose to preserve my dna with @viagenpetsandequine genetic preservation… #sponsored,” the popular papillon-Maltese mix notes on her Instagram account, which has more than 510,000 followers.
In exchange for the post, Tinkerbelle and owner Sam Carrell received a free round of genetic preservation valued at $1,600. Tink is one of many beloved Instagrammers who are expanding their circle of influence. Popular posters are no longer just promoting pretty clothes and cosmetics. With ads for everything from pet-cloning to contraceptive devices, they’re selling science — and possibly wading into murky legal territory.
Rutgers Law professor Ellen P. Goodman noted that ads from social media influencers, like traditional advertisements, are overseen by the Federal Trade Commission when they make claims about food, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, alcohol, tobacco and gadgets that affect consumers’ health and finances. The FTC dictates that such ads must be truthful, not misleading and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.
And, Goodman added, a company could be in violation of the FTC’s consumer protection laws if “their endorsers fail to clearly state that they’ve been paid or compensated to advertise an item, if it can be proven that the endorser is deceptively promoting a device that they don’t have any experience with or if the product has not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration.”
The Owlet Smart Sock, a $299 wearable gadget that purportedly tracks an infant’s heart rate and blood oxygen levels, was promoted on social media by Ali Fedotowsky, a veteran “Bachelor” star, and Connie Simpson, celebrity nanny to the likes of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.
Such notables touted the gadget as being a helpful tool for letting parents rest in peace, but Owlet was forced to discontinue the device in October 2021 after the FDA issued a stern warning letter noting that the product’s ability to determine a baby’s medical condition needed to be properly approved before being marketed in the US.
Owlet debuted a new version of the Smart Sock this month that does not include the blood oxygen monitoring feature that the FDA took issue with. The company also tapped a fresh cadre of momfluencers to promote it. Owlet did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for a comment, but in a public statement the company said, “We plan to work toward the submission of a device application to FDA. We met with the FDA recently to reiterate our commitment to these efforts.”
Other influencer ads for health devices have come under fire.
Bloomlife Pregnancy Tracker — a wearable device that can save expecting mothers an early trip to the hospital by tracking their contractions — is not FDA approved, but one of its endorsers has billed it as “the world’s first clinically validated wearable contraction monitor.”
Some in the media have worried that such claims could be misunderstood as the FDA’s stamp of approval by an unwitting consumer. Bloomlife, however, insists that its Pregnancy Tracker is “not a medical device,” per its Web site, while noting it “intend[s] to submit for FDA clearance in the future.”
Still, even companies given the green light by the feds have been called out for giving a less-than-clear picture of products marketed through social media.
Approved by the FDA in 2018, Natural Cycles has secured the reality television likes of “Vanderpump Rules” star Lala Kent and “Summer House” alum Lauren Wirkus to plug its contraceptive thermometer and digital app, which helps users track fertile days based on basal body temperature.
The device received FDA approval in 2018, but OB-GYN Katherine Varda Schwab recently advised that the wording in some of Natural Cycle’s influencer endorsements create an “incomplete” picture about the precise timing and body positioning needed to obtain accurate temperatures for fertility tracking.
Social media mavens, meanwhile, defend the practice of promoting health products.
In October, Johnson & Johnson hired at-home chef Peter Duong as a paid partner in its #PEPCIDComfort campaign. Duong thumbs-upped the heartburn-relief tablets to his combined 515,000 Instagram and TikTok followers, and says he doesn’t see any potential issues endorsing over-the-counter drugs.
“My content is usually well received by my supporters, and I wouldn’t necessarily speak on a product if I have not tried it myself or like using it,” Duong told The Post.
“What people aren’t aware of is that there is a misconception that creators get paid loads of money” to post advertisements, he said, noting that he had been paid a “few hundred” bucks for the ad.
“There are no guarantees when it comes to deals or a set dollar amount. It’s all based on whether if people like your content.”
Tinkerbelle’s owner also similarly stood by her pooch’s partnership with ViaGen.
Said Carrell: “Tinkerbelle is an established actor as well as social media celebrity and her followers loved this unique idea.”
Published on: Article source