This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it is planning to conduct studies on the effectiveness of the disclosures that are used by influencers and other endorsers to communicate that they were paid to give their endorsements.
The FDA's Office of Prescription Drug Promotion said that it plans to conduct two studies. The first study will examine the effectiveness of the disclosures used by celebrity, physician, and patient endorsers in print ads for a fictitious acne product. The FDA plans to test the effectiveness of a disclosure that is something like, "[Endorser] has been paid to appear in this ad for Drug X."
The second study will examine the effectiveness of disclosures used by influencers and patients in Instagram posts for a fictitious endometriosis product. The study will look at how disclosures affect consumers' perceptions of the post. The FDA plans to test what it calls a "direct disclosure" (such as "Paid ad") and an "indirect disclosure" (such as "#sp"), as well as posts with no disclosures at all.
The FDA said that, "In both studies, we are interested in the role of endorsement and payment status on participants' recall, benefit and risk perceptions, and behavioral intentions."
These studies have the potential to have far-reaching consequences about how the FDA and other regulators view the effectiveness of influencer and other endorser disclosures. Because of this, industry (and perhaps other regulators, such as the FTC) should take a close look at the content (and placement) of the disclosures that the FDA is planning to test to make sure that the study will provide useful results. For example, the FDA may want to test "#ad," which is a commonly used disclosure, rather than "#sp," which has become less widely used after the FTC questioned its effectiveness.
The FDA is accepting public comment on its plans for sixty days.