Brands need to be more original on Instagram

Richard Alford, managing director at M&C Saatchi
Richard Alford, managing director at M&C Saatchi

Celebrities are increasingly using Instagram to endorse products, but the problem is they are doing it so badly, writes Richard Alford, managing director at M&C Saatchi.

In what must be one of the least surprising developments in recent social media history, celebrities have been found using Instagram… to place commercials, adverts and endorsements. Even though Instagram doesn't have ads, officially.

Among many others, Beyonce is doing it for Pepsi; Kim Kardashian is doing it for her own tanning product and Nicole Richie is doing it for Unilever hair care product, Suave.

The feed of commentary from fans alongside these posts shows that the consumer, at least, is in no doubt as to what they are: "luv ur Pepsi commercial" says KrispyKreme123 to Beyonce. Martin Sorrell was absolutely correct when he described Twitter as a PR medium, and Instagram should now be regarded as another PR medium, albeit with photos. Maybe that simply makes it an advertising medium.

The real scandal, if there is one, is that it is being done so crassly and badly.

The real scandal, if there is one, is that it is being done so crassly and badly. Celebrity endorsement has always mattered hugely to brands, especially those targeting younger consumers. It provides instant cred and reassurance to image-conscious but under-confident teens. The Pepsi ad featuring Beyonce (which she almost certainly had only the slightest involvement with) is a pastiche of Andy Warhol. Yawn.

The Kim Kardashian one is at least a real photo, but sadly a shit one of the product looking a bit crap in her bathroom. However, the low point for Insta-adverts has to be LeBron James for Nike. Alongside a truly terrible photo of his feet wearing Nike trainers he says "These are simply the best!! Ultra comfy and can wear them with anything. I'm ordering 100 pair right now. #kicks #Nike #family". Clumsy hardly covers it.

So, if Instagram is indeed now an another advertising medium, can brands please try and be a bit more original?

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