Online lifestyle gurus, or influencers, can reach a large and varied audience instantaneously, which has naturally meant they are approached by brands for advertisements. The adverts or content created is often seen by more people than television adverts or billboards. As a result, perhaps there should be stricter regulations in place.
In this new age of advertisements, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) have had to create and update advertising laws; influencers now need to be explicit if their content is an ad, but there are some products I feel should not be advertised in this way regardless.
Kim Kardashian West has 108 million Instagram followers, nearly twice the UK population, meaning she possesses a great deal of advertising power and value. At the beginning of this year, Kim recommended using detox teas from the ‘Flat Tummy Tea Company’, a company which Kim says are “all about getting women back on track” after their indulgences during Christmas.
Besides the social issue of suggesting that women specifically should want to lose weight, it is the promotion of a medically harmful product that concerns me. While Kim is daring to bare all in her underwear, she is not bearing the health risks that come with detox teas as explicitly.
It may be 100 per cent natural, but these natural products do have effects on our bodies. This detox tea contains senna, which is made from the leaves and fruit of the senna plant and is used as a laxative to treat constipation – not so glamorous. The long-term use of this can stop bowels from functioning properly; it is risks such as these that are not mentioned in the small print of Instagram posts, and which will have damaging effects.
While Kim can reach the masses, I feel influencers, whose lifestyle and job description is to influence our own, can have a greater impact on what we purchase. A false intimacy is created when we engage with influencers online; we have unparalleled access to their daily routines from running mundane errands to going to bed. Amongst the stream of their daily goings-on are elegant flat-lays of product placements and recommendations, which I admit I have been influenced by.
‘Natural Cycles’ has been cropping up across my various social media accounts. It is an app which can be used as a natural form of contraception — although I am hesitant to call it a contraceptive. Through measuring a woman’s temperature daily, an algorithm is used to calculate fertile and non-fertile days, hence when it is safe to have unprotected sex without risk of pregnancy.
According to the designers, our body temperature increases by around 0.45 ͦC when ovulating, which would create a ‘red day’: a day to use protection. However, a study in 2000 by the National Institute of Environmental Health found that women are always potentially fertile at any point in their menstrual cycle, contradicting the claims the app depends upon.
Launched in 2014, the app is now certified in Europe but is not regulated by the British Medicines and Healthcare Product Regulatory Agency, a fact not mentioned by sponsored ads. Unlike medical forms of contraception, the app has not had to undergo years of rigorous clinical trials to prove its accuracy and efficacy.
Several social media influencers, especially those advocating ‘healthy lifestyles’, are participating in paid sponsorships with the company, including Carly Rowena and Shona Vertue. While damning their experience of the oral contraceptive pill, which was first produced in 1960 and revolutionised women’s sexual freedom, they emphasise their new found liberation from using this app.
These influencers are not doing follow-up posts, just one-off blog posts holding their new pink thermometer, which raises the question: are they using ‘Natural Cycles’ as a long-term form of contraception, or is it just until they receive their paycheck?
To use this app, you need an incredibly regulated lifestyle. There is an endless list as to what may affect the reliability of the app: hangovers, stress, travelling, and a regular period — something I am not blessed with — for proper use.
When promoting Natural Cycles, a discussion is not being had about different contraceptive methods available and the benefits, or problems, they each have that need to be considered when deciding which to use.
Influencers can use their platforms to talk about topics such as sex and contraception, which provide a more comfortable and realistic discussion to the awkward and humorous sex-ed classes that I’m sure we all enjoyed during school. These should be impartial or at least have the aim to educate, not advertise and profit from, because these could have lasting damning effects.
I will always love the Kardashians and other influencers, but some products and topics should not become adverts.