Tavi Gevinson recently moved into a new apartment in what real-estate developers would like you to call the Brooklyn Culture District and which is actually called Fort Greene, a historically black, middle-class neighborhood. The Rookie founder/editor-in-chief and actor has been posting to Instagram about her new digs, because moving is always very exciting, and also because her building’s developer is paying her to do so.
Two Trees Management, which owns 300 Ashland, confirmed the partnership in a statement provided to Jezebel by a spokesperson. “We are partnering with a few creative influencers, like Tavi, who are great fits for our residential buildings,” the spokesman said. (The arrangement was first reported by The Cut.) “In a rental market crowded with perfectly staged model apartments, we wanted to show what it’s really like to live in a Two Trees building.”
The spokesperson confirmed that Gevinson is “paying rent and being compensated,” but would not comment on the financial arrangement any further. He would not say, for example, exactly how much rent Gevinson is actually paying, or how much Two Trees was paying her.
The gossip blog Oh No They Didn’t picked up on Gevinson’s posts last week, noting her use of the building’s geotag and the hashtag #300AshlandPartner, a clear reference to the building’s address. In her a role as a fashion writer, Gevinson has historically been responsible about disclosing gifted products, but there is nothing beyond that cryptic hashtag in her posts to indicate that Two Trees is paying her for them, which has gotten other celebrities in hot water in the past. A reasonable person would likely look at these posts and think Gevinson is an authentically happy tenant of 300 Ashland.
The Federal Trade Commission, which protects consumers from “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” announced just last year that it would be cracking down on sponsored content—that is any time a material connection exists between a company and the person endorsing their product. According to the FTC’s endorsement guidelines, any time that’s the case, it should be made very clear—even #sp appended to a post may not be enough to pass the FTC’s muster.
“If Ms. Gevinson is being compensated in any way for her promotion of the Two Trees property, then her social media posts are effectively ads and she is required by law to clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connection she has to the company in all of her posts,” Truth in Advertising’s legal director, Laura Smith, told Jezebel. “When characters are limited, the easiest way to disclose this type of connection is to start the post with ‘#Ad,’ or even better, make the disclosure in the image itself. It’s really that simple.”
Two Trees, perhaps better than anyone else in New York City, recognizes the utility of “creative influencers” in providing a cultural smokescreen for gentrification and the luxury housing it ultimately produces, and it’s not surprising that they’re forging the way for this brand new form of SponCon. The company boasts of a real estate portfolio worth some $4 billion, including significant stretches of the Brooklyn waterfront, which it uses to wield cultural (as well as political) influence in both Kings County and across the East River in Manhattan: The neighborhood under the Manhattan Bridge overpass is now called “DUMBO” because of Two Trees; in 2014, Two Trees housed Kara Walker’s highly-Instagrammable “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” at the defunct Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg; now, it is pushing for the decadent and wasteful Brooklyn-Queens Connector, a.k.a. “the BQX.”
In February of 2017, the average rent for a one-bedroom in Fort Greene was $2,872/month. A studio apartment at 300 Ashland is renting for $2,555/month, and a one-bedroom is going for $3,258/month. Whatever you’re paying to live at 300 Ashland, one of the “amenities” you’re paying for—along with a bike room and cold storage—is Tavi Gevinson as a neighbor.
“Our influencers will continue to create the same great content while enjoying their new homes and neighborhoods, and will be hosting special experiences open to our residents,” the Two Trees spokesperson said. “We think it’s an exciting addition to our marketing efforts and a terrific amenity for tenants. Stay tuned for more great names and content.”
Gevinson did not return a request for comment.