Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Endorsements and Twitter: a precautionary tale from Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian and Rashard Mendenhall aren't just two names you never thought you'd see in the same sentence. They are also involved in two of the more unusual (to date) lawsuits involving endorsements and Twitter. And each of these situations has implications for people who use Twitter. And if you don't think you make endorsements: do you review products online? Do you get free review copies of anything? Recommend people's books on Twitter?

If yes, keep reading

First, let's talk about Kim Kardashian. (It's what she'd want.) In 2009 a company promoting something called Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet delivered a package of cookies and shakes to her publicist.

This kind of thing isn't as rare as you might think. Once, I was at the home of a minor celebrity and he had cases of Coors Light everywhere. I asked him what's up with the Silver Bullet and he said he has no idea, they just show up every now and then. I mentioned it to a marketer I know and he told me about the practice of seeding, where companies just send their products to celebrities in hope that the celebrities will talk about using them and give them free PR.

Siegal's claimed that they delivered the package because an article had said Kardashian had tried their products and liked them. Let's assume that's true, even though Siegal's never did provide evidence of what article this was. Presumably they were hoping she would tell people she liked them (again?). If so, that's not quite what happened. Instead she never talked about them, but Siegal's did: they put up a link on their website to the article I mentioned above.That got Kardashian's lawyers attention, eventually, and they sent a letter to Siegal's requiring them to take down the link. Siegal's did take down the link, but afterward they found out that Kardashian had tweeted about their product twice:
  • “Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet is falsely promoting that I’m on this diet. NOT TRUE! I would never do this unhealthy diet! I do Quick Trim!”
  • “If this Dr. Siegal is lying about me being on this diet, what else are they lying about? Not cool!”
Noting that she hadn't disclosed that she is a paid representative for Quick Trim in those tweets, Siegal's promptly sued Kardashian for defamation. And although the file settled in 2011, this situation teaches several lessons that are important today:
  1. If someone seeds you with product, find out where it came from. And if you don't want to take the risk of a fight later, send it back today. You're always at risk of being sued if you say the wrong thing in today's America, but be especially careful when you're dealing with products from someone who was obviously hoping to get good press.
  2. If you review product that you got for free, make sure your readers know about it. I've discussed the FTC Endorsement Guides in some prior posts; look there if you'd like more information about when you do and don't need to disclose.
  3. If you keep the product and give it a negative review, make sure you've been 100% accurate in everything you say. Truth is a complete defense to libel in America, and you'll want to make sure you've done everything to take advantage of that. (It's not a complete defense everywhere by the way; more on that in a future post.)
But can endorsing a product get you in trouble when you're not even talking about a product? It did for one NFL player. I'll talk about that tomorrow.

Siegal's Complaint:


  1. Kim actually made the lawsuits involving endorsements and Twitter to be more secured. Legal Proposals

  2. Lisa: Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure I'm quite getting it though. Kim may have brought other lawsuits involving Twitter, and her lawyers are the ones who sent the letter to Dr. Siegal telling them not to claim Kim had used their products, but this lawsuit was definitely brought by Dr. Siegal. The link above is to the Complaint, which is the document that Dr. Siegal filed in order to sue her. Are you thinking of another one? If so I'd love to hear about it.


Thanks for commenting. Posts and comments aren't legal advice; requests for legal advice in the comment probably won't get answered. Sorry to have to do this but someone someday is going to make me glad I did...