OFT targets Kim Kardashian and other Twitter endorsers

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Kim Kardashian and Snoop Dogg is suspected of making a profit through the hidden advertising in Twitter. Office of Fair Trading (OFT) began an investigation to identify the hidden ads and their distributors in blogs and social networks.

Twitter users who don’t clearly state their relationship with a product that they tweet about could soon be subject to oversight from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The consumer watchdog is clamping down on endorsements on Twitter and blogs where users are taking advantage of their online reputation to make some cash from brands. The OFT has already begun an investigation into a PR firm that has been accused of paying bloggers to write about its clients. The watchdog is demanding that promotional comments be clearly marked if they’ve been paid for.

Celebrities can make plenty of cash from endorsements. Arnie Gullov-Singh, the CEO of Ad.ly — a company that plays matchmaker betweens brands and companies — told Business Week that the likes of Snoop Dogg and Kim Kardashian can make between £2,000 and £6,500 per tweet.

“A year ago, celebrities were wary about their reputation, about selling out, but when they saw how easy it was to earn up to $5,000 a tweet, they flocked on board,” said Gullov-Singh.

The OFT has released a statement describing online advertising and marketing that didn’t describe paid-for promotions as “deceptive” under the rules for fair trading. “This includes comments about services and products on blogs and microblogs such as Twitter,” the statement read. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission requires that Twitter endorsements include the words “ad” or “spon” to mark their status.
I’d be interested to know, however, exactly how much influence celebrities have on Twitter when it comes to products. Links to websites are one thing — they’re easy to click on — but I suspect that when it comes to going out and buying real, tangible goods, things are somewhat different.

What do you reckon — can you spot a paid endorsement on Twitter from a mile away? Tell us your thoughts on the OFT’s crackdown in the comments.

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