Rome, Italy: British American Tobacco (BAT) is being investigated by Italy’s market and free competition authority AGCM for using social media stars for “covert advertising.”
Three Italian celebrities were paid by the tobacco company to encourage their Instagram followers to use tags and hashtags relating to BAT’s heated tobacco device, Glo Hyper.
Because there were “no graphic or textual warnings” identifying it as a publicity push, AGCM claimed it amounted to disguised — and illegal — advertising.
“The general prohibition of hidden advertising has the general scope and must therefore also apply to messages spread by influencers on social networks,” the regulator said.
The three celebrities, model Stefano Sala, dancer and TV host Stefano De Martino, and model Cecilia Rodriguez, have all been charged.
Antitrust investigations can result in fines for companies and individuals. BAT did not respond to a request for comment on the matter right away.