Attention, theoretical text, 2019.
The future battlefield of advertising is its disappearance in everyday life — becoming invisible and yet being highly effective. While denying that it's advertising, publicity aims to enter into interpersonal communications to become the language and fabric of social relationships.

This series of photographs, appropriated from celebrities as well as micro-influencers, functions as evidence of deceptive advertising and illustrates the visual devices utilized to allure attention. The analysis of photographic language is used to point toward the legal, ethical, and economic nature of the online influencers to discuss the pervasiveness of the attention economy.

Advertising has become a sophisticated social performance. The language for seeking attention gets under our skin through normalizing proto-advertising behaviors to stage the image of the self and make it an economy. Private gestures became public spectacles, manipulated to appeal, value, and validate the image of the self, which is then defined through the visual attributes of the body and objects, rather than the intellect, spirit, and its experiences.

Diffused advertising replaced the role of the copywriter. The strategies of traditional advertising became a profusion of influencers influencing followers on endless media feeds. Meanwhile, consumers became influencers themselves, replicating the linguistic performance of this mode of advertising and its labor. The visual exposure of the language and behavior of this attention economy adopts a critical stance toward the semiotics of advertising and its relationship to advancements in media studies and the field of photography.

Some devices and aims of the publicity images on social media are similar to traditional advertising, allegory in art, and the informative function of images themselves. However, contemporary publicity on social media differs from the historical use of images in publicity. The modes and contexts in which emotions are manipulated to generate attention, excitement, belief, guilt, and envy have changed.

For instance, glamour as a primary device is enhanced by creating envy or desire in others on an interpersonal level. The appeal to the personal social condition is built with a friendly image in complicity with the directness and familiarity of the medium. Even a clearly fabricated image is perceived by the public as spontaneous and real, a shared private moment, therefore creating a closer contact between the product and the consumer. The line between paid promotion and authentic recommendations, or just being oneself, is increasingly being blurred.

It’s the design of the media that establishes the language of the medium and its cultural function. As such, these publicity images are produced by the interfaces of the platforms that manufacture the culture of sharing glamorous, playful, and appealing content. Additionally, the feed is manipulated to match content posted by other users based on the interests of the platform. The contextual environment of advertising in the feeds of social media is coordinated by the platform through algorithmic editorial selection based on profiling users, advertisers plans, and the general commercial agendas of the platform. In this context, the contradictions with other content and users are minimized to create conformity between the languages, messages, and uses of the media channel, which is ultimately driven by the platforms and their financial gains.

The potential sophistications in concealing commercial intentions, paid arrangements, and manipulations of perceptions of advanced modes of advertising are tied to the increasing technological complexity and the future of personal media. Resisting such deceptions of truth and reality goes in parallel with the future dangers posed by fake news, making it a political, educational, and philosophical challenge.

Text by Paolo Cirio.

Despite initial attempts at regulations through new consumer protection laws, some of which have been enacted in only a few countries, influencers still create deceptive advertising, manipulating social media in many forms to dissimulate legal compliance. To this day, regulators fail to reign in this diffuse and subtle form of advertising (See the most recent complaint letter by to the FTC on March 4, 2019). Finally, this project highlights the responsibility of social media platforms, which take full advantage of the media attention without adhering to standards and codes of ethics in advertising for traditional broadcasting companies.

Slogans for the campaign






Articles research

March 14, 2019.
Million Pound Selfie Sell Off - VIDEO DOCUMENTARY by BBC Panorama.
How many followers do you have? The rise of social media has brought with it a new kind of celebrity, the digital influencer. These megastars of Instagram and YouTube have upended the advertising industry by converting their virtual followers into real-world currency.  

September 14, 2019.
Instagram will restrict who can see posts about cosmetic procedures, weight loss products. Instagram will restrict people under the age of 18 from seeing posts that promote weight loss products or types of cosmetic surgery as part of a new policy that targets a rapidly growing and controversial sect of influencer marketing.

July 21, 2019.
License to influence: UAE law regulates social media players.
In a bid to regulate the social media marketing industry, the UAE has made licenses for commercialised influencers mandatory.

July 9, 2019.
Denmark plans regulation of influencers following suicide note.
The minister of children and education said influencers must, as other media, have an "editorial responsibility".

June 24, 2019.
Instagram Advertising: Do You Know It, When You See It?

June 15, 2019.
I’m off to have a baby, and I’m taking no tips from the new pregnancy influencers.
Where once just not vomiting in my hair was enough, now I’m supposed to wonder how cute my bump looks in my lingerie selfies.  

May 10, 2019.
Exclusive: Philip Morris suspends social media campaign after Reuters exposes young 'influencers'.
Cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc has suspended a global social media marketing campaign in response to Reuters inquiries into the company’s use of young online personalities to sell its new “heated tobacco” device, including a 21-year-old woman in Russia.  

May 02, 2019.
Instagram hiding its likes is no bad thing, but young people will find a way round it.
Taking away the little red heart does little to protect users – the culture of validation is too deeply entrenched to be killed off.  

April 30, 2019.
'Instagram is like junk food': the woman out to improve our visual diet.
Marine Tanguy thinks our eyes deserve more than narcissistic soft porn – so she’s building a stable of talents to rival Kim Kardashian.  

March 17, 2019.
Reality check: life behind Insta-glam image of ‘influencers’.
Online they feature in glossy posts as the epitome of cool. But that is often worlds apart from how they live their lives.  

February 3, 2019.
Instagram: beware of bad influencers…
The picture-sharing site and its ilk are full of celebs peddling products and not being open about what they get in return. Will regulation help?

February 01, 2019.
Paid Influencer Marketing For Luxury Watches Prompts Growing Consumer Resentment.

In the age of social media marketing, almost anything goes. That is until consumers get wise on unsavory tactics used by overly ambitious marketers who are intent on buying the perceived opinions of today’s most influential internet personalities.  

January 25, 2019.
Forcing social-media influencers to be clear about #ads? Good luck with that.
With seemingly infinite ways for celebrities to blur posts that are adverts, authorities’ efforts are a laughing stock.  

January 23, 2019.
Celebrity social media influencers pledge to change way they post.
Clampdown on stars being paid for endorsing products without disclosing firm rewards them.  

August 29, 2018.
How Flat Tummy Co gamed Instagram to sell women the unattainable ideal.
‘Appetite suppressant’ lollipops and ‘detox’ teas have been promoted by the company’s hand-selected celebrities and Instagram models.  

August 24, 2018.
Big Tobacco’s Global Reach on Social Media.
The tobacco industry says it no longer tries to hook new generations of smokers. So what’s behind the legions of beautiful young people in smoking, vaping and partying posts with the same hashtags?  

August 17, 2018.
Instagram influencers show how ads have changed. We need to catch up.
If it’s hard to decide what constitutes an ad now, it’s because YouTube vloggers and the Kardashians changed the rules.  

August 16, 2018.
Social media celebrities under investigation by business watchdog.
Concerns ‘influencers’ are not declaring when they have been paid to post about products.  

May 16, 2018.
Kim Kardashian West shocks fans with ad for appetite-suppressing lollipops.
The star has been accused of being a ‘toxic influence’ but she’s not the only celebrity promoting dubious diet products.  

March 07, 2018.
Glam or sham: how the big brands cash in on YouTube's beauty vloggers.
As makeup ‘gurus’ bag swag and all-expenses-paid trips to paradise, the cosmetic companies make their presence felt.  

October 05, 2017.
Social media stars breaching rules on promoting brands, watchdog says.
Rise in complaints as ‘influencers’ on sites such as Instagram and Twitter fail to declare that they are being paid to publicise products.  

June 13, 2017.
93% of celebrity influencers don't signpost ads correctly on Instagram.
Over 90% of A-list endorsements on Instagram are in violation of rules around influencer marketing.  

April 19, 2017.
THIS JUST IN: FTC Takes action against influencers, marketers over sponsored posts.
In a landmark bout of activity, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has announced that it is, in fact, watching celebrities, athletes, and other influencers on Instagram.  

August 30, 2016.
Canada's ad industry cracking down on paid endorsements on social media.
Canada's advertising industry is taking long-overdue steps to curb misleading posts on blogs and social media that double as paid product endorsements in an effort to keep so-called influencers — celebrities and other individuals who have large followings online — honest.  

August 22, 2016.
The Kardashians Could Be in Trouble Over These Instagram Posts.
Truth in Advertising sent a letter (PDF) to the Kardashians notifying them that they discovered over 100 Instagram posts that should have been marked as advertisements, the post reports.

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