#ad, or lack thereof
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khaled-vodka.jpg
Credit: Photo by @djkhaled via Instagram

Last summer, DJ Khaled shot a video of himself enjoying a breakfast of grits and Cinnamon Toast Crunch with blueberries. Instead of pouring milk over his cereal, however, Khaled topped the bowl with Belaire sparkling wine and Ciroc vodka to celebrate his number one record. Yes, wine, vodka, and cereal. While you might be thinking that combination sounds so gross it should be illegal, it turns out Khaled’s actions actually weren’t totally legit.

According to Truth in Advertising (TINA.org), Khaled’s cereal video—as well as many others the DJ has posted on social media over a ten-month period of investigation—violate Federal Trade Commission law. FTC law is intended to protect consumers by ensuring free and fair competition in the marketplace. Along with other advocacy groups (among them Public Citizen, Alcohol Justice, US Alcohol Policy Alliance, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy and Mothers Against Drunk Driving), TINA.org sent a warning letter to Khaled’s lawyers. The warning, sent on March 29, detailed that the DJ’s failure to disclose his endorsement deals with the alcohol brands—typically demonstrated by captioning images with “#ad” or using Instagram’s “paid partnership with” tagging function—violate the law. The warning stated that if the images weren’t removed, TINA.org would notify regulators that Khaled and the alcohol brands he promotes are “engaged in deceptive and illegal marketing campaigns.”

Additionally, TINA.org’s warning cited that the presumed young age of Khaled’s massive social following, particularly on Snapchat, paired with the promotion of alcohol violates “policies of the social media platforms, not to mention self-regulatory advertising codes in the alcohol industry, both of which are designed to shield alcohol ads from minor.” Even if Khaled has tagged his cereal video with “#ad,” this would still be a red flag.

Khaled isn’t the only celebrity or influencer to avoid using “#ad” on images or videos containing products for which they are paid to promote. However, Khaled’s use of social media and subsequent enormous following propelled him to such fame he’s often known as the “king of Snapchat.” His degree of internet-fame makes Khaled a person of interest for groups like TINA.org, which also often cites celebrities like the Kardashians for “deceptive marketing campaigns” and FTC violations.

Since the warning was sent, it appears that Khaled’s team has deleted the potentially incriminating content from his social media pages or tagged select images with “#ad” and adding new captions like “21 and up everything we do has to be responsibly [sic].” Of course, with screenshots and downloading capabilities, there’s no way the content will actually disappear forever. Hopefully in the future Khaled will save the vodka for a bloody mary, and tag it appropriately, or—gasp—not post it to social media at all.