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Promoted rogue content, a new threat on Instagram


Online marketplaces offering counterfeit products online use techniques, strategies and promotional tools from big brands to develop their own digital marketing strategies.

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E-commerce in 2019 will consolidate as a distribution channel, matching the importance of retail. It’s no secret that this is a powerful platform, which retailers will continue to utilize, driving sales through this channel in order to reach a wider audience, breaking down barriers such as distance, time and displacement.

Instagram and its sponsored contents have adapted quickly to this growing trend, taking on an essential role thanks to Instagram’s popularity. Instagram is the social platform favored by younger generations and generates the highest level of interaction among millennials and generation Zeros, who are users under the age of 35.

Cyber-criminals have taken advantage of the situation to attract this highly sought-after audience due to their high consumption, their focus on new product releases and their attraction to personalized offers.  This is where we see Instagram playing an important role: 60% of Instagram’s users discover new products via the platform, and at least 30% buy a product that they have never seen before.

Instagram has enjoyed significant growth over the past few years, and today it boasts more than one billion active monthly users. This growth is showing no signs of slowing down. Companies are utilizing the platform as an advertising tool, and users should be aware of, and able recognize misleading or un-authorized ads that wish to displace legitimate brands.

Cyber-criminals also run marketing campaigns

It is no secret that companies are allocating considerable budgets through their e-commerce and marketing departments to advertise products and services, as well as organizing contests and promotions.

These departments usually include the usage of ads promoted through Instagram in their annual workplans, which allow for segmentation by interest, audience and geolocation, as well as having access to information around the type and volume of the target audience.

However, retailers and legitimate brands will not be the only ones to benefit from the capabilities offered by Instagram: hackers and those profiting from the sale of online counterfeits will also allocate considerable budgets to the posting of ads on the social media platform.

That’s not all, there is an additional threat gaining traction: Promoted Rogue Content. Rouge Content is promoted when fake ads (whose ultimate goal is to advertise and sell counterfeit goods) create fake profiles which clone the official profiles of large brands and/or blogs, and redirect users to rogue sites.

The difficulties of detecting rogue websites

The proliferation of Promoted Rogue Content on Instagram directly affects the online reputation of brands. Thousands of loyal customers and followers interact daily with content exclusively created to promote counterfeits via rogue sites, which are designed according to the look and feel of the original brands, with the intent of deceiving shoppers.

Cyber-criminals create fake profiles that use a brand as a profile picture and attract large number of followers in a short amount of time due to the parasitism of the reputation and image itself.

Consequences for the brand and the user

When users browse through Instagram, they encounter many ads between posts, which often contain fake profiles advertising offers that do not correspond to the advertised brand. These fake ads lead to rogue sites that infringe upon the legitimate brand. If a user decides to make a purchase, there is a high probability that the product purchased is indeed fake, or that they may not receive anything at all. These illicit procedures damage the legitimate brand’s reputation, as well as creating and spreading false ideas regarding the quality of the product. It may also lead to an increase in the number of complaints on the official distribution channels which the brand offers to the public.

Instagram users who have experienced this will begin to lose trust, not only in ads, but also in the brand itself, which will eventually lead to a negative effect when marketing the brand through other methods. Bad practices have negative and direct consequences on the regular functions of e-commerce. Several marketing studies have indicated that affected users will discuss negative experiences with at least six other users, which will in turn have a negative impact on sales. Therefore, promoted rogue content represents a problem for everyone.

In order to address the issue of impersonation of the brand through this social media platform, it is recommended that companies contract a brand protection platform and the assistance of industry experts.

Today, it’s vitally important for brands and companies to include brand protection services within their marketing budget.


Rogue Promoted Content: Promoted adds on social media platforms, whose ultimate goal is brand impersonation, in order to offer counterfeits or promote fraud.

Rogue Site: Website designed based on the look & feel of a famous brand, created in order to impersonate it to easily obtain a larger number of viewers.

Cybercriminal: Person carrying out online criminal activities such as data extraction, access to private networks, fraud, attacks on computer systems and piracy, falsification or illegal publishing of illicit content.

Sources: instagram-press.com, techcrunch.com – Author: Jose Ignacio Carrillo de Albornoz, Chief Legal Officer in Smart Protection

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