Skinny coffee, tea-tox tea, diet pills: Should Instagram ban celebrity ads for diet aids?

Kim Kardashian diet lollipops

Skinny coffee, tea-tox tea, diet pills: Should Instagram ban celebrity ads for diet aids?

Written by Sam Harris, Senior Account Executive

Over the past year, Instagram has become a platform inundated by ads. Image feeds, stories and personal posts are overhauled by brands, looking to highlight their products on the social platform everyone is scrolling through. But what started out as mostly innocent product placement, has also turned into a misuse of trust, exploiting influential figureheads to make money, no matter the consequence. With a significant proportion of public yet to cotton onto such unwarranted marketing tactics, is it time for Instagram to step in and start banning ads for certain products?

Seeing the wood for the trees

This has been one of my bug bears for ages. Scrolling through my feed to see the influencers and celebs I follow showing off the latest dodgy diet shake or makeup miracle workers. I immediately scroll on (and sometimes consider unfollowing), rolling my eyes in the process. With my background in Sport Science, nutrition and, of course, PR, I recognise the laughable nature of the posts and evidence-lacking products. For others however, I appreciate the reality may not be quite so obvious. Here lies the problem.

The culprits

Kim Kardashian West, who has 126 million followers on Instagram, recently got slammed for advertising appetite-suppressing lollipops. Despite deleting the particular post, she later shared images on her profile alongside her favourite meal replacement shake…

Katie Price (1.9 million followers) has been seen to talk about how using ‘Boom Bod weight-loss shot’ helped her to get into shape. Lauren Goodger of The Only Way is Essex has advertised diet aids. Louise Thompson (1.2 million followers) has promoted her favourite tea-tox tea… YAWN! Did these celebs really get their body using ‘skinny coffee’? No. They worked hard alongside their on-demand personal trainers and at home chefs (not to mention photoshoot experts) to look the way they do on their profiles.

How can they not realise the impact of their pretences?

It’s about time

You’ll appreciate my joy when I read the BBC article earlier this week, which quoted England’s most senior doctor as criticising celebrities for advertising weight loss products, like teas, shakes and pills, on social media and suggesting platforms like Instagram should ban them.

“Our young people are bombarded with ideas, images and advertising which set such a high bar for what they should feel and look like,” he writes. “And yet there is little accountability for the impact this has. If a product sounds like it is too good to be true, then it probably is. The risks of quick-fix weight loss outweigh the benefits, and advertising these products without a health warning is damaging. Highly influential celebrities are letting down the very people who look up to them, by peddling products which are at best ineffective and at worst, harmful. Social media companies have a duty to stamp out the practice of individuals and companies using their platform to target young people with products known to risk ill health.”

So what is next?

Working in PR, I completely recognise the use of brand ambassadors to highlight the latest products on the market. Influencer marketing is huge and why wouldn’t a brand want to capitalise on their overall reach and credibility? The issue lies with the influencer. They need to have respect for their following and do their own research into a brand and the impact their post might have on consumers before mindlessly promoting products for ludicrous money. If not, they deserve to be called out for their ill-thought out behaviour. I’m definitely behind Professor Stephen Powis. Bring on the ban, Instagram!