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Boston company using paparazzi to skirt celebrity endorsements

by: Bob Dumas Updated:

BOSTON - A Boston startup wants to change celebrity endorsements in the advertising industry. 

Instead of paying for celebrity endorsements, Spotted Media connects companies with paparazzi photos of celebrities using products are part of their day-to-day life. 

Recent examples include Gisele Bündchen wearing Chanel sunglasses and carrying a designer bag, Justin Timberlake wearing Nike apparel after ordering a Starbucks coffee and Mark Wahlberg wearing a Ralph Lauren shirt.

CEO Janet Comenos said the company has “built what is now the largest database in the world of all the brands that celebrities use in their personal lives.”

The key to using these images in advertising is that Spotted obtains legal permission and compensates both the talent and the photographer.

Spotted Media then uses the photos to produce ads to target on Facebook and Instagram. 

“They know which pages you have spent more time on. Which celebrities or brands you might have followed or liked in the past. Basically, for every brand and every celebrity, there is a Facebook audience," Comenos explained.

Babson College marketing professor Ross Petty says the entire world of advertising is more blurred today than in the past.

Petty, who was once an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, just authored “Branding Law.” He believes Spotted Media’s approach passes legal muster, both for celebrities and consumers. 

Petty does wonder how the FTC will keep up when things are changing so fast. When he was at the commission, regulators only had to monitor magazines and the three main broadcasting networks.

"You have to look at a broad spectrum of social media and I think that is only going to get more broad and more diverse,” added Petty.

As a group of young professionals comb the internet for those candid shows, Comenos believes authenticity is exactly what her company is finding, while allowing their clients to reach a coveted audience along the way. 

“I think millennials in particular are becoming increasingly skeptical of staged content that is really sponsored by the brand, but tries to come off like it is not,” added Comenos. 

Spotted Media has been in business a little over a year and estimates its ads have already reached 100 million people.

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