4 Potential Dangers of Paid Endorsements

Paid endorsements and influencer marketing campaigns have become one of the most popular digital marketing trends over the past few years. Business Insider recently reported that brands are on track to spend upwards of $15 billion on influencer marketing by the year 2022.

While it may seem like a great way to increase your audience, there is a potential dark underside to influencer marketing. In addition to running afoul of FTC regulations, audiences are getting savvier every day. If your brand doesn’t appear authentic, then it can quickly cause irreparable damage.

We want to share with you four considerations that can help protect your brand when running a paid or influencer marketing campaign. 

Running Afoul of the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently looking to update its rules regarding paid endorsements. While they have required influencers to disclose such relationships for quite a while, several recent incidents have caused them to start cracking down on violators.

The quickest way to get into hot water with the FTC is to ask your influencers to hide the fact that your promotional posts are sponsored. Even handing out free products with the hopes that influencers will “organically” review your brand is considered a no-no. 

The FTC has made it abundantly clear that they’re going to come after you if you pressure your influencers to hide the fact that their review isn’t organic.

Choose the Right Influencer

Many businesses will only focus on the number of followers an influencer has instead of whether or not there is a good match between their brand and the overall audience. 

For example, some unscrupulous individuals have been known to buy fake followers that consist of tens or even hundreds of thousands of computer bots who make it look like the influencer is more popular than they really are.

The best way to research a potential influencer is to simply look at the relationship they have with their audience. If they actively engage their followers with intelligent conversation, it’s probably a good sign that everything is on the up and up. 

However, if there’s no engagement whatsoever, and the audience comments have gross spelling errors or seem to be repeating themselves, it’s a red flag that should cause you to look a bit closer.


In 2017, PewDiePie, a famous YouTube star, made a couple of anti-Semitic jokes in one of his live videos. The backlash was huge, and he was subsequently dropped by Disney, one of his bigger advertisers.

The moral of this story is to be extremely careful about which influencer you partner with. You’re putting the reputation and goodwill of your brand in the hands of someone who might say something horrible—and now your brand is associated with that controversy. 

While the PewDiePie example is one of the more extreme cases, there are plenty of other influencers who won’t see a problem with making seemingly innocuous political or religious statements during the course of their hours-long videos.

Do you have the ability to watch several hours’ worth of video every week to make sure your influencer isn’t saying controversial things—or making religious/political statements that you don’t want associated with your brand?

Authenticity and Transparency

In 2018, Bazaarvoice ran a study that found 47% of consumers were tired of influencer content that appeared inauthentic. This is one of the biggest causes of damage to the goodwill of a brand.

How to overcome? 

Brands should seek to partner with influencers who have used their products prior and have an authentic connection to their audience. One of the biggest ways to come off as a “corporate shill” is to dictate precisely how the influencer should promote your product and the word they use to describe it. 

There’s a good reason why influencers are so popular—they have their own personalities that have allowed them to make an authentic connection with a large group of people. By injecting corporate-speak or an unauthentic voice into their promotion of your products and services, it’s causing damage not only to their brand but yours as well.

In 2019, Hit Search ran an influencer study  that found that “98% of respondents admitted to having spotted an individual’s Instagram follower count rise in an unnatural manner or over a short period of time…”

Social media audiences are incredibly savvy and can spot inauthenticity from a mile away.

Influencer Marketing in Dallas

At Witmer Group, we specialize in helping our clients grow and expand their brands. We can help you create and manage an influencer marketing campaign that will allow your brand to gain more exposure and make an authentic connection with potential new customers. Give us a call today at (214) 865-9484 or contact us via our website to learn more about the various digital marketing strategies and services that we offer our clients.