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IP Quick Intellect

Hijacked! When your brand's social media photos are used by another brand

Posted by on 30 Mar 2017

Imagine waking up one morning and scrolling through your various social media feeds, only to discover a photo of yourself on another account. The photo is almost identical to one you posted just a few days before, except a photo-shopped product has managed to feature in the picture...

That’s exactly what happened to #instafamous influencer, Pia Muehlenbeck. Pia noticed that her photos were featuring products that she had never endorsed and such pictures were conveniently featured on the brand’s accounts. Pia took to twitter to clarify the confusion: "Stolen photo with @SkinnyMintCom product photoshopped in to place. Obviously fake," she tweeted. "I want to call them out on my Instagram stories but don't want to give them the publicity. Unfortunately, they would probably actually get more sales if I made this IP theft more public."

However, the detoxing-tea brand hadn’t stopped at just one photo with another picture featuring the social media personality also posted: 

When confronted, the company profusely apologised and pointed the finger at Sugar Bear Hair, a brand promoting hair growth via their vitamin-infused gummy bears, saying that Skinny Mint Tea drew their inspiration from them.

The devious social media antics of brands has led to advertising watch dog, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), policing posts of this kind. Effective as of 1 March 2017, the AANA’s latest edition of the Advertising Code of Ethics has provisions specifically targeted at social media posts. Brands and influencers are now required to make advertising material obvious so that it cannot be mistaken for independently reviewed, endorsed or sponsored content. Hashtags such as #spon or #ad have been deemed acceptable ways to demonstrate that the material is sponsored. The AANA has also suggested incorporating logos, graphics and other audio cues, into the posts to further demonstrate that the post is an advertisement.

Three things to take from the tea travesty!

  1. Don’t photoshop! If you would like someone to sponsor your products, ask them! Photo-shopping your material without their consent can encourage the influencer to talk negatively about your brand to their large following. If you want a brand association, create it – don’t fake it!
  2. Don’t blame! Just because another company did the same – does not make the behaviour acceptable. Nor do you mitigate the damage from a #socialmediafail by blaming another company for your actions. Such behaviour reinforces a customer perception of your brand being “cheap” and “irresponsible.” A more appropriate response to this incident would be to accept responsibility, apologise to the person and assure your following the brand will not repeat the mistake. 
  3. #Hashtag. If your brand is a big contender in the social media arena, be sure to #hashtag #spon or #ad! This is the bare minimum you are required to do to ensure that the post is seen as commercial in nature. It is also both time and cost effective! Failing to distinguish advertising post from regular posts could see you answering to the Advertising Standards Bureau.

Have your photos been hijacked from a brand? Tweet us what happened at @ColemanGreig!

If you would like to speak with one of the lawyers in Coleman Greig's Brand Protection team, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us on 02 9895 9230, or via

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