Kate Hawkesby: Do we need watchdogs to tell us influencers might be trying to influence us?


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I don’t get the big deal about Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog about her what she’s taking to combat some long term effects she’s suffering from having Covid. Apparently it left her fatigued and feeling blah, so she turned to an alternative ‘functional medicine practitioner’.
Well of course she did, she’s Gwyneth Paltrow. She also sells candles that smell like vaginas, believes in bee sting therapy, and thinks magic mushrooms are good for your brain. She’s Gwyneth. Surely we know that by now?
But the NHS has come down on her for saying what supplements she takes, what she’s eating, what she’s not eating (she’s fasting until 11 o’clock everyday now FYI) as though we are not smart enough to figure it out for ourselves. That by hearing her say she’s plant based, does a bit of Keto and soaks her berries in rosewater, that we’re all going to follow suit and take that as a prescription for life.
Surely in this new world of 'saturation influencer', with people constantly telling us what works for them and what they do and don’t like or eat or wear, we're getting more savvy at seeing it for what it is? Do we really still need watchdogs putting out press releases to ‘warn us’ as though we’re idiots?
New Zealand is not immune to this. The ASA has recently gone feral on digital influencers here and is welcoming complaints left right and centre on people who may post themselves drinking an iced tea for example, and not writing ‘ad’ on it.
Apparently to protect us all from believing that certain influencers just love the iced tea, we need ‘ad’ splashed across the post so we understand loud and clear that they may just be pushing us something. It could be a hustle. They may just be drinking that on the gram because they want us to buy some. But isn’t that up to us to figure out? And even then, can’t we choose with our own free will whether we want to buy that drink or not?
The boundaries are so blurred these days on what’s an ad and what isn’t that I just assume everything’s an ad, and anyone doing anything on social media is probably doing it with an ulterior motive, and if they’re an influencer it may well be their only income source, hence even more reason to believe their whole life is a sponsored hustle.
Likewise when it comes to a woman who runs her own wellness website, as in Goop, as in Gwyneth, one can pretty naturally assume she’s going to push what she’s going to be able to sell. If you’re following her, and watching her blogposts, then surely you’re up for that, know about it, and don’t have a problem with it. Maybe you’re someone who truly does want to try Keto because she does. And that’s fine, that’s your prerogative.
But I can’t help thinking it’s a giant waste of these agencies time, the ASA’s of this world I mean, to spend time sifting through complaints on who may've influenced who to do what, and then trying to ping them for it.
And especially in this case of Gwyneth and the NHS. Surely they have far more pressing things to worry about right now than whether Gwyneth said she takes Lypospheric Vitamin C.

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