Image: Tavi Gevinson. Image source.
As the lines become increasingly blurred between what’s sponsored and what’s not on celebrity Instagram accounts, we constantly seem to be navigating fairly muddy waters online. But as an arbiter of transparency and the founder of an influential media company, Tavi Gevinson is usually pretty straight up about such matters. Which is why it came as quite a surprise when the Rookie editor-in-chief faced criticism for her recent apartment posts on Instagram.
Celebrating her new digs in Brooklyn, Tavi was fairly coy about the fact that the building’s developer was paying her to do so — writing: “I live so close to BAM now that I’m tempted to go home, change into my pj’s and come back. Just as the greats of cinema would have wanted!!!! #300AshlandPartner”. The slight nod to partnership via her hashtag here was pretty wishy washy to be honest, prompting gossip blog Oh No They Didn’t to pick up on that fact and also to point out her use of the building’s geotag.
The Cut later reported that Two Trees Management, which owns 300 Ashland, had confirmed the partnership. “We are partnering with a few creative influencers, like Tavi, who are great fits for our residential buildings,” a spokesman told Jezebel. “In a rental market crowded with perfectly staged model apartments, we wanted to show what it’s really like to live in a Two Trees building.” This spokesperson also went on to confirm that Gevinson was “paying rent and being compensated,” but wouldn’t comment further on the financial arrangement — like how much rent Gevinson is actually paying, for example.
Jezebel points out that The Federal Trade Commission — whose job it is to protect consumers from “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” — started cracking down on sponsored content last year. Releasing guidelines that stipulate a material connection between company and influencer must be very clearly articulated. It is little wonder, then, that people are so upset about Tavi’s actions in this instance. “If Ms. Gevinson is being compensated in any way for her promotion of the Two Trees property, then her social media posts are effectively ads and she is required by law to clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connection she has to the company in all of her posts,” said Laura Smith, Truth in Advertising’s legal director.
“When characters are limited, the easiest way to disclose this type of connection is to start the post with ‘#Ad,’ or even better, make the disclosure in the image itself. It’s really that simple.” Then again, it is a tricky area, because at just 20 years of age, Tavi obviously has to make a living and if someone offered us free rent, we’d probably be pretty damn excited too. I think the key becomes, then, about being open and transparent when it comes to these matters, so as not to deceive your audience.
Interested in this? You might like to check out this article as well: