Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the current hyper-digital age is the ever-shrinking gap between the celebrity and everyman. Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in the realm of the celebrity tweet. Twitter, the pervasive microblogging website, promises thrilling accessibility to prominent public figures, particularly in the entertainment realm. By providing seemingly unrestricted access in 140 characters or less, Twitter affords a “candid” glimpse into the day-to-day life of a celebrity that previously had been reserved for publicist-controlled edited interviews. Twitter purports to permit celebrity access that is both instant and raw, in form and in content.
From its inception in 2006, Twitter has become an important promotional vehicle for public figures and businesses alike. With followers of many A-list celebrities soaring well into the millions, the commercial impact of Twitter is undeniable. Recently, Madonna and Britney Spears traded genial tweets about one day reuniting for a performance in an exchange that might have been intimate had it not occurred in front of a Twitter audience of nearly sixteen million (their combined number of followers) – their conversation strategically coinciding with the launch of Madonna’s new "Truth or Dare" fragrance.
In addition to strengthening consumer loyalty, Twitter offers retailers a unique mass marketing tool to reach specific untapped demographics. Meanwhile, for celebrities, Twitter has heralded the arrival of a new endorsement revenue stream. The Kardashians have reportedly received thousands of dollars per tweet to endorse anything from Old Navy products to the services of ShoeDazzle.com, a fashion start-up whose affordable Shoe-of-the-Month business model is appealing to fans aspiring to attain a Kardashian-like lifestyle.
While Twitter may generate significant consumer awareness and business, it also raises important legal issues. For example, relying on the fact that the relationship between advertiser and celebrity is nearly indistinguishable, the FTC found that Twitter presented an unprecedented risk to consumers by way of deceptive advertising practices. Therefore, celebrities must comply with the FTC’s disclosure requirement, ensuring that their relationship with an advertising retailer is clear, even if such disclosure merely includes a hash symbol and the word “ad” at the end of their endorsing tweet such as "#paid ad", "#paid", or "#ad". Such a disclosure must be made when a celebrity endorses a product in exchange for compensation in any form, whether monetary or not. From a retailer’s perspective, this all but defeats the intrigue that once attracted fashion-marketing visionaries to utilize Twitter in the first place, turning away from the traditional path of discreetly providing celebrities with free products in the hopes their products would be captured in the following week’s tabloids. For a celebrity, the onus is, for the first time, on them to comply with FTC Endorsement Guide.
Despite the aforementioned marketing requirements, which may limit its potential, Twitter has dramatically altered business as usual in the fashion, apparel, and beauty sphere. In the transactional context, recent celebrity appearance agreements now contain clauses in which Twitter use is a negotiated deal point, requiring an attending celebrity to not only mention but to excitedly endorse an event, often with contractually-specified language and certain subject hashtags determined beforehand. Indeed, Twitter provides a new form of brand promotion through the use of celebrity that remains unparalleled to date. Perhaps the most evocative illustration of this power arrived at the 2012 Academy Awards, in the form of an Atelier Versace-clad Angelina Jolie, glamorous to the point of caricature, stylized and posing. The Twitter handle in homage to her look, @angiesrightleg, amassed 10,000 followers within its first hour.