A complaint has been filed against Diageo alleging more than 1,700 alcohol ads for Cîroc vodka were posted on Instagram by ‘influencers’ who failed to openly disclose their connection to the brand.

A pre-2018 Instagram post by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs featuring Cîroc (Image courtesy: TINA.org)

An investigation by truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) claims that posts from 50 different Cîroc social media ‘influencers’ have violated Federal Trade Commission (FTC) law.

Among the accused ‘influencers’ are Cîroc’s brand partner Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Guardians of the Galaxy actor Mikaela Hoover, rapper Bow Wow, American singer Cassie, and model Alessandra Ambrosio.

In 2007, rapper and music mogul Combs signed a deal with Diageo to become the spokesperson for ultra-premium vodka brand Cîroc, negotiating a 50% return of the profits.

More than a third of the misleading posts are alleged to have come from Combs. The American rapper was previously sent a letter by the FTC regarding his “deceptive promotion of other products” in March 2017.

In addition, the TINA.org investigation found that none of the ‘influencers’ have “age-gating features on their Instagram accounts so minors can view the inadequately disclosed alcohol ads”.

It comes just eight months after another TINA.org investigation had called out hip-hop producer DJ Khaled for failing to mark alcohol-sponsored social media promotions as ads.

DJ Khaled, who promoted a number of booze brands including Cîroc, overhauled his social media accounts after receiving a written warning. Consequently, brand owner Diageo was notified of the “deceptive marketing issue”.

Following the DJ Khaled investigation, Combs included ‘#ad’ on his 2018 Cîroc posts, however he failed to take “corrective action” to his pre-2018 posts.

“As of December 2018, an abundance of inadequately disclosed Cîroc ads across numerous influencers are still on Instagram, making it clear that Diageo is not committed to complying with FTC law, and has not taken the corrective or proactive steps necessary to ensure that its social media influencers comply with the law,” TINA.org said.

As a result, TINA.org has filed a complaint to the FTC urging the agency to “commence an investigation into the marketing tactics used by Diageo on social media and take appropriate enforcement action”.

The letter argued there were Cîroc ads that featured kids, a recipe for cannabis-infused strawberry lemonade and a “booze-drinking Santa who needs to spread the ‘liquid love’”, as well as nudity and explicit language.

TINA.org cited an example where a 53-second video featuring Combs “signs off by focusing the camera on two Cîroc bottles before saying into the camera, ‘Right here, you know what that is? A beautiful f***** weekend. Cîroc…’”.

TINA.org wrote: “Given this latest batch of undisclosed Cîroc ads, which is more than eight times the number of alcohol ads TINA.org compiled as part of its investigation into DJ Khaled, it is clear that Diageo was simply paying lip service to the idea of corporate responsibility.”

In addition, TINA.org added that the “content of many of these ads directly contradicts the corporate messaging of responsibility and moderation” from Diageo’s annual reports.

“It’s time that Diageo starts acting like the responsible corporate citizen it says it is,” said TINA.org executive director Bonnie Patten. “And if it needs help learning how to comply with the law, TINA.org is confident that the FTC can teach the spirits giant the lessons it needs to learn.”

A Diageo spokesperson said: “We have a rigorous marketing code and take our role as a responsible marketer very seriously and have a strong commitment to comply with the FTC’s standards on advertising. We are investigating this as a matter of urgency.”

Earlier this year, Diageo suspended all Snapchat advertising after the UK’s advertising watchdog banned a Snapchat advertisement for Diageo’s Captain Morgan rum brand, upholding a complaint that it appealed to people under the age of 18.

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