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“The Influencer Army”: Olivia Rodrigo, Ashley Cummins and others are joining forces with the White House against COVID-19

The New York Times reported on the 1st of August 2021, that the Biden administration had signed 50 social media influencers from different platforms (such as Twitch, Youtube and TikTok) to encourage the younger generations to get vaccinated. The White House allegedly selected the influencers through a marketing firm, asking them to address “a significant need to expand awareness within the 12-18 range”. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention many people in that age bracket have not yet been fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19.[1] State and municipal governments are also enlisting the support of regional influencers, with some offering $1,000 monthly incentives to persuade their followers to get vaccinated. 

 (Source: White House via Storyful)

Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo was present at the White House in July 2021, to talk about the vaccine with Dr Anthony Fauci. Olivia declared to the press that she is “ honored and humbled to be there and help spread the message about the importance of new vaccination.” She further declared content with the actions conducted by President Biden and Dr Fauci, stating that “It’s important to have conversations with friends and family members, encouraging all communities to get vaccinated”.[2]

Ashley Cummins

Ashley Cummins (@ashleymarieblog_) is a lifestyle and fashion influencer and nowadays, she is sharing information about the COVID vaccinations on the platforms she is using. 

Ashley declared: “I had a great experience with getting the vaccine and I’m happy to share that with everyone. I don’t know for sure if anyone has changed their opinions of it but I’m hoping that I have spread a little bit more positive activity surrounding it”.[3]

She and other 126 influencers were contacted by The Idea Marketing company for taking part in this initiative. Furthermore, Ashley stated that she is paid $200 for each post she makes in regards to the vaccination campaign. The company that contacted the influencers is a state-hired firm working on a multi-million dollar campaign, convincing young people to get vaccinated.[4]

The Power to Comeback campaign

In a press release by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on 9th of April 2021, the announced the launching of the “Power the Comeback” information campaign on COVID-19 vaccines. The Colorado Department stated that “A critical part of the campaign is the involvement of some 100+ community influencers throughout the state from diverse backgrounds of many races, nationalities, ages, genders, abilities, and more. In conjunction with more traditional media efforts, influencers will ensure the broad reach of the campaign. Utilizing trusted members in the community has shown to be one of the most effective ways to combat vaccine hesitancy.”[5]

It is important to mention that these paid campaigns conducted by the State of Colorado and other states, respect the FTC’s endorsement guides, as the posts include the disclosure “paid partnership with Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment”. [6]

The FTC’s endorsement guidelines demand that material links be disclosed clearly and prominently by the influencers; as it can be something as simple as “#ad” or a full contextual disclosure explaining the business relationship between the two parties. The question remains whether the White House will enforce the FTC’s enforcement guides for the newly created ‘influencer army’ as the federal government puts a lot of pressure on influencers to disclose their paid partnerships on social media.[7] 

[1] https://www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/53726/1/the-us-government-is-recruiting-influencers-to-get-young-people-vaccinated 

[2] https://www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/53726/1/the-us-government-is-recruiting-influencers-to-get-young-people-vaccinated 

[3] https://denver.cbslocal.com/2021/08/17/ashley-cummins-abena-antwiwaa-colorado-pays-social-media-influencers-change-unvaccinated/ 

[4] https://denver.cbslocal.com/2021/08/17/ashley-cummins-abena-antwiwaa-colorado-pays-social-media-influencers-change-unvaccinated/ 

[5]  https://covid19.colorado.gov/press-release/state-asks-coloradans-to-power-the-comeback 

[6]  https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=9cc97009-1bc4-438c-90b7-a9d2ecad7590 

[7]  https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=9cc97009-1bc4-438c-90b7-a9d2ecad7590

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