It probably will not surprise you to learn that your favorite beauty blogger or reality television star is almost certainly getting paid to post that perfectly lit selfie with an artfully placed tooth-whitening kit or meal replacement shake on her Instagram account. What you don’t know, really, is how much money they actually receive for those pseudo-advertisements. Jezebel has obtained detailed rates for micro- and macro-celebrities from Jenny McCarthy to Scott Disick; our reporting found a wide range of fees for posts published on Twitter, Facebook, and, most typically, Instagram.
Celebrity endorsements are nothing new, but the explosion of social media has shifted the practice into new territory. As I’ve discussed here before, advertisements posted as selfies on Instagram or Twitter usually contain no clear indication that the celebrity or personality in question has been paid to promote the product—despite the fact that, in many cases, they’re legally required to disclose exactly that. (Kim Kardashian, for example, recently got in trouble with the FDA promoting a morning sickness drug without including the side effects.)
It’s an entirely new model, and it thrives off of a gray area. When you see Kerry Washington in a Neutrogena commercial, you mostly know what’s up. For a campaign of that magnitude, there are press releases, and then there are exclusives stories based on those press releases. Vanity titles like “brand ambassador” or “creative consultant” get thrown around. In these early days of the new Instagram-Twitter publicity paradigm, we’re still learning the signals. If you see a prominently displayed coconut water in a Kardashian post in 2016, you might reasonably expect, at this point, to see a product name in her hashtags. But what exactly is she getting for such an agreement? Celebrities seem to love apps like Instagram because it helps them build some public semblance of authenticity. Is it really “worth” it to break down that mystique with a clearly sponsored post?
I’ve been curious about how much these people are actually getting paid to post a picture with a clever caption. So when I was given the opportunity to pull some exact figures, I jumped. I connected with a source who owns a company that produces a product similar to the ones often seen advertised on certain celebrity Instagram accounts. The source volunteered to reach out to various celebrity reps and inquire about their rates for social media posts about the product. The range of these numbers starts to create a picture of this new, evolving economy of the camouflaged celebrity endorsement.
We’ll get to the numbers—if you’re curious right now, just enlarge the graphic embedded in this section—but first, let’s consider the medium.
For the more major brands and actual celebrities, social media promotions appear from the outside as a part of a package deal. When you see Kerry Washington post on Instagram, for example, you can assume that, sure, she probably does like and use Neutrogena’s blush and sunscreen—but she’s also being paid millions of dollars to do so in all the various mediums.
Kerry Washington’s model, however, is now the exception to the rule. When you scroll and scroll and scroll through the B- and C-list celebrity accounts that are primarily responsible for these misleading product promotions, the advertisements are frequently blended into “authentic,” “honest” social personas.
As with all advertisements (and, honestly, most things on Instagram), these posts are plainly meant to be aspirational. Your teeth can be as white as a Real Housewife’s and your stomach as flat as Vanessa Hudgens’ if only you buy these products. It is the casualness and seamlessness of their posts—Khloe’s tea ad is posted between a candid photo with her brother and one with her niece North—that make the oblivious follower feel that this product is simply a part of the perfect daily life of this celebrity.
The main source of these posts, to generalize a bit, are reality television stars, people who at one point were much more famous than they are now, and people who have completely baffling access to the spotlight. They maintain whatever public level of interest remains in them by peddling a certain degree of openness and honesty with their fans on social media, and they’re smart enough to exploit that sense of connection in their sponsored posts. Take the Jersey Shore’s JWOWW, for example, who recently confessed her “secret” to staying fit during pregnancy: 310 Nutrition Shakes. Or consider Khloe Kardashian sharing that it’s Fit Tea, and not frequent sessions with a personal trainer, that keeps her healthy during the holiday season.
But in order to maintain the lifestyle that even allows them to be someone who is paid for Instagram ads, they’re required to push those exact products—for both the money and for the implicit confirmation of their popularity. They’ve built for themselves a type of fame that can only really be sustained through these dishonest (or at the very least, highly edited) portraits of their lives.
Women’s Wear Daily recently covered the phenomenon of fashion bloggers earning millions of dollars a year to post sponsored content. Their aura of “authenticity” operates under similar lines as the “authenticity” of reality TV stars. Most fashion and beauty bloggers started small, with personas compelling enough to make fans pay attention to even the most boring of their actions. They built fan bases rooted in the idea that they were providing coverage beyond what mainstream fashion magazines provide, or that was more in touch with “real” life.
A sponsored Instagram post with a top fashion blogger can cost a brand anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 — nearly five times the going rates just a year and a half ago. And that’s relatively small potatoes for brands that reportedly shell out $100,000 to $300,000 for a single sponsored Instagram post from Kylie Jenner.
WWD’s story is one of the few reported pieces to contain somewhat concrete numbers for these types of deals, and it’s still somewhat vague. Our source reached out to various celebrities and inquired about their specific rates for social media posts about their product. (Gawker’s Allie Jones recently attempted the legwork on her own.) In addition to providing the actual figures, we found a few notable trends.
First, almost none of the representatives who responded to our source’s inquiry asked about the product in question or required that the celebrity actually use the product in order to vouch for its claims. One exception was the Real Housewives of New Jersey cast member Melissa Gorga, whose representative turned down the offer because her client was already promoting a similar product. However, our source was told that once that campaign ended, Gorga would be available to transition to promoting a new product.
Additionally, one social media agency who represents celebrities in similar deals was happy to send along a client list with the detailed pricing and various promotional packages offered by their clients. Although some might argue as to whether or not some of these people are, in fact, “celebrities,” the list included Donnie Wahlberg, Harry Hamlin, Julianne Hough, and comedian Heather McDonald.
The rest of the responses we received are outlined below. All the rates are for a single post. For context, I’ve also included the audience numbers on their social media platforms.
After one season on The View, Jenny McCarthy began hosting a show on SiriusXM which, coupled with her relationship with Mark Wahlberg’s brother, keeps her in the spotlight to some degree. Her package also included an option for an on-air shoutout of a product on her radio show.
- Facebook: $3,500
- Twitter: $3,500
- Instagram: $3,500
- Adding a video element to any of the above posts: $600
- Facebook: 1,008,578 page likes
- Twitter: 1.37 million followers
- Instagram: 672k followers
Joanne is one of three sisters to Jenny McCarthy. She bills herself as a “celebrity makeup artist,” but it’s clear that any notoriety she can claim stems almost directly from her sister.
- Facebook: $700
- Twitter: $700
- Instagram: $700
- Add on picture of Jenny McCarthy: $2,500
- Facebook: 16,033 page likes
- Twitter: 16.4k followers (unverified)
- Instagram: 15.1k followers
During her first Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion, Rinna boasted that she would do anything for a buck, referring specifically to her commercials for adult diapers. Lucky for Lisa, nothing about this is off-brand.
- Facebook: $3,000
- Twitter: $3,000
- Instagram: $3,000
- Adding a video element to any of the above posts:: $500
- Facebook: 463,915 page likes
- Twitter: 365k followers
- Instagram: 403k followers
Meghan King Edmonds
With one season of the Real Housewives of Orange County under her belt, Meghan’s shilling is surprising only because she’s married to baseball legend Jim Edmonds and seems to enjoy a great deal of financial security. Throughout the season, she frequently brought up the fact that she had a successful career before marrying Edmonds, so perhaps this is an opportunity to get back to that.
- Facebook: $950
- Twitter: $1,200
- Instagram: $1,500
- Adding a video element to any of the above posts:: $500
- Facebook: 18,647 page likes
- Twitter: 51.9k followers
- Instagram: 208k followers
Pratt was a cast member on The Hills along with her older brother Spencer. Her Instagram suggests that she spends a lot of time in the UK, so perhaps she’s more famous there.
- Instagram $7,000:
- Instagram: 675k followers
Scott joins the rest of his family in the product placement game. Of mild interest is the fact that he seems to delete many of his ads after a certain period of time.
- Instagram: $15,000-$20,000
- Instagram: 13.3 million followers
Blac Chyna is one of the best examples of Instagram product placement. She gained notoriety as a stripper and was frequently name-dropped by rappers like Drake. Her fame increased when she began dating and had a child with rapper Tyga. She continues to model, has her own line of false eyelashes and stays in the press due to her friendship with Amber Rose, her beef with the Kardashian family and her relationship with Future.
(Did not specify platform)
- 1 week: $2,000
- 2 weeks: $2,500
- 3 weeks:$3,000
For Videos with item on:
- 1 week: $2,500
- 2 weeks: $3,000
- Facebook: 1,069,395 page likes
- Twitter: 529k followers
- Instagram: 4.5 million followers
I would place Scheana as a somewhat middling Bravolebrity. She is a Vanderpump Rules cast member and somehow gets invited to things like the Latin American Music Awards.
- Instagram: $1,500
- Instagram:532k followers
In December 2015, the CR Fashion Book did a similar story focusing on the rates garnered by some of today’s most popular supermodels [emphasis added].
According to Frank Spadafora, a former casting director and the founder and CEO of D’Marie Archive, an analytics group that has recently introduced an app and platform to guide agencies through putting a valuation on the social power of a model or influencer, the three most highly ranked supers on social—Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevigne, and Gigi Hadid, in descending order—“are currently valued between $125,000 and $300,000 for a single post across their portfolio.”
In comparison to the ones above, Kendall, Cara and Gigi’s posts are much less obvious and harder to pinpoint. A safe assumption seems to be that when they actually tag a brand in their posts, it’s more than likely that they were paid.
- Facebook: 10,997,683 page likes
- Twitter: 14.7 million followers
- Instagram: 43.6 million followers
- Facebook: 3,433,455 page likes
- Twitter: 4.56 million followers
- Instagram: 25.3 million followers
Gigi is interesting because she signed a major contract with Maybelline in early 2015. One wonders if these Instagram posts are built into the contract or if they’re a separate transaction.
- Facebook: 1,628,117 page views
- Twitter: 1.24 million followers
- Instagram: 11.6 million followers
Click here to enlarge our infographic.
(Note: a number of representatives denied the accuracy of these figures when contacted by Jezebel, despite being told we had seen emails sent from their addresses to our source.)
The use of social media as a unique or even sole advertising tool likely isn’t going anywhere soon—especially as long as a supply of famous faces are willing to play the game. The goal of any ad is to sell an idea or a lifestyle, and it’s never had to be true or even attainable—the customer just has to want it.
Celebrities and brands are currently enjoying a sweet spot, in which celebrities can seem as though they’re authentically championing a product that enhances the lifestyle they’re presenting to the world, all the while it’s the same old pay-for-play game. I don’t expect any of this to change, and frankly, some may argue that nobody expects a great deal of true honesty from a Kardashian in the first place. But at the very least, celebrities and the brands paying them should know that they’re not fooling anyone.
Contact the author at email@example.com .
Gif illustration & infographic by Tara Jacoby. Infographic photos via Getty/AP/Bravo.