Disney is under fire in Japan for running a shady marketing campaign on Twitter. The company is being accused of paying several manga artists to tweet illustrations and positive reviews about Frozen 2 and, here's the kicker, telling them not to disclose that those were paid ads.
On December 5, shortly after users started noticing that the artists were all tweeting similar impressions on the film, Disney issued an apology and said it was all a misunderstanding. However, a few days later, one artist named Kosame Daizu tweeted that he was explicitly told not to disclose the partnership.
Not a good look — “The agency that hired us for this campaign requested that we not label our work as a promotion," said Daizu, who has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. As you might expect, this doesn't reflect well on Disney, and the company has since changed its story about what happened. This week, Disney Japan said it "apologized deeply" for disappointing both artists and fans, vowing to never let it happen again.
"Disney has established internal guidelines for marketing activities. Similar projects, including this, are the result of a lack of awareness and compliance with the guidelines, and the creators who participated are not responsible," Disney said in a statement. "In the future, we will endeavor to prevent the recurrence by thoroughly disseminating internal guidelines to prevent this from happening."
There are rules — In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has clear guidelines on how celebrities or social media influencers need to disclose paid partnerships with brands. And they're legally require to abide them.
"If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship ('material connection') with the brand," according to the FTC. "A 'material connection' to the brand includes a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services."
Still, even with these rules in place, some influencers keep ignoring them. This is why supermodels like Kendall Jenner, who failed to disclose her Fyre Festival posts on Instagram as ads, end up getting sued. That's just one of many examples out there.