A deceptive marketing complaint has been filed against Diageo with the Federal Trade Commission, charging the liquor company with misleading Instagram postings related to its Ciroc brand of vodka.
The nonprofit media watchdog TruthInAdvertising.org (TINA) filed the complaint, claiming that it has reviewed more than 1,700 Instagram posts from 50 different online influencers that have used the social media site to promote Ciroc without disclosing they had a connection to the brand, which is required by the FTC. More than one-third of these postings came from Sean “Diddy” Combs, the rapper and music producer who has served as the Ciroc brand manager and chief marketing officer since 2007.
TINA.org also argued that the Ciroc postings on Instagram that lack these disclosures are able to bypass the site’s age restrictions on accessing alcohol promotions – the Ciroc Instagram page, for example, is only viewable to Instagram users ages 21 and older.
The FTC complaint marks TINA.org’s second targeting of Diageo’s digital marketing within the past year. Earlier in the spring, the nonprofit published a report detailing the social media influence that DJ Khaled had on the brand, which included 200 Ciroc-related postings on various platforms including SnapChat.
“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.”
Diageo, which operates its North American headquarters from Norwalk, responded to the charges with a statement that 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.”