On this episode of the C+MRC, Dr. Greenwood is joined by student research associates Stephanie M., Claire K. and Justin L. from her Spring 2018 “Investigative Research Methods” course. The research team discusses their interest in the use of sponsored messaging in Instagram and how users are often unaware of sponsored content by those they follow. The idea of “hidden disclosure” creates tension between brand and consumers. This raises the question, “Do advertisements and endorsements need to be further regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in order for consumers to make a conscious and appropriate judgment on the product?”
For the Investigative Research Methods course, the research team proposed a mixed-methods study that employed content, semiotic, and rhetorical analyses of the sponsored content within Instagram posts by the lifestyle influencer Tammy Hembrow. The data set consists of the past five years of Instagram posts by Hembrow, with units of analysis including captions, hashtags, product placement, image composition (e.g. background, lighting, angle), emergent themes (e.g., sexuality, family life, health, beauty). The research team also integrates FTC guidelines to navigate the complex terrain of integrated content and potentially deceptive advertising.