DJ Khaled—the producer, jet-ski enthusiast and online life coach who taught us not ever to play ourselves—might’ve done that very thing: he might’ve unwittingly played himself. An advertising watchdog has been among Khaled’s 23 million social media followers, and apparently some of Khaled’s tweets, Instagrams, and Snapchat stories may have violated federal law.
According to the group Truth in Advertising (TINA), in the ten months from June 2017 through March 2018, Khaled promoted several brands of booze on his Snapchat stories without disclosing that he was a paid endorser for each of those labels—and he did it more than 100 times on that platform. (Someone at TINA had the enviable task of cataloging and organizing Khaled’s snaps, saving each one that featured Ciroc vodka, Belaire sparkling wine, D’Usse cognac, or Bumbu gin). TINA found another 200 offending posts on Instagram, and a handful of others on Twitter and Facebook.
Last summer, when Khaled’s latest record, Grateful, sat on top of the Billboard 200 charts for the second straight week, he celebrated by pouring Belaire and Ciroc into his bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. And of course he shared his booze-soaked breakfast on social media. While the move was amusing and endearing to his fans, TINA highlighted this particular snap as being one of Khaled’s many problematic posts.
“The episode was captured and shared on DJ Khaled’s Snapchat, where until recently never a week went by without a post or ‘snap’ showing DJ Khaled ‘celebrating’ with one of four alcohol brands,” TINA solemnly buzzkilled. “On March 29, TINA.org together with six advocacy groups [...] warned DJ Khaled that his failure to disclose his material connections to the alcohol brands violates FTC law and his Snapchat suddenly sobered up.”
TINA contacted Khaled’s attorneys about a number of potential Federal Trade Commission violations; the FTC requires paid endorsers to be transparent in their social media posts about their relationships with the brands, and to use hashtags like “#sponsored” or “#ad.” TINA also pointed out that a “sizeable number of minors” might see Khaled’s boozy posts on social media. Since receiving the warning letter, Khaled reportedly has not promoted any of those booze brands online, he’s retroactively pasted the hashtag #AD to more than 150 social media posts, and he’s deleted more than a dozen others.
“DJ Khaled has done the right thing by disclosing his material connections to these alcohol brands,” Bonnie Patten, TINA’s executive director said in a statement. “Time will tell if he is truly committed to ensuring that his followers are not misled by deceptive ads on his social media accounts. As for the alcohol companies, their failure to make certain that DJ Khaled complied with FTC law is absolutely inexcusable.”
Patten said that the organization would not be reporting him to the FTC “at this time”—and hopefully no one at the FTC is reading this post right now. That has to be a major key to, you know, avoiding TINA and fines and maybe continued Snapchat success.