Celebs’ pics, videos abused to endorse products

By Long Nguyen, Hieu NhanJune 15, 2021 | 10:31 pm PT
Photos and videos of many celebrities are being used by businesses to endorse products and services without their knowledge, but the culprits seem difficult to catch.

The photographs of Miss Universe Vietnam 2018, H’Hen Nie, have been seen a lot in the last few weeks, advertising a male enhancement pill.

On June 3, the model said that she had never signed a contract with the supposed brand, and demanded that her photos are removed from all its ads.

But Nie and her team have no idea how to contact the company.

"If anyone has bought this product because of my photos, I am sorry. I hope you are all safe, and please let me know if you have information about this company," she said, adding she wanted the problem to be tackled quickly.

The beauty queen and model is one of many Vietnamese celebrities whose face is being illegally exploited over the last few years. Many celebs have seen themselves in advertisements of brands they have never worked with, potentially damaging their reputation and popularity.

Hanoi-based comedian Cong Ly was livid after seeing himself in an advertisement for a pill to cure baldness. He had never been bald. Ly immediately contact the brand and asked them to stop using his photos. In 2018, a video of Ly acting in a TV series was used for a video endorsing a knife brand on Facebook.

A video of Cong Ly using a knife in a TV series is used for advertisement of a knife brand. Photo courtesy of VFC.

A video of Cong Ly using a knife in a TV series is illegally used to advertise a knife brand. Photo courtesy of VFC.

In Saigon, actor Quyen Linh has had a lot of his photos used by many pharmacy brands. Many have cut and edited videos of Linh attending talk shows to persuade their patrons to buy their products.

Singer Thuy Tien, famous for her charity work, has had photos of these activities used by those selling drugs, pretending they were giving these free to locals.

Annoyed and frustrated at being used to back unproven and exaggerated claims, most celebrities choose to vent their feelings on their social networks.

"I can sue them but I do not want to waste my time. I hope those doing business know how to keep their credibility," Ly said.

Linh said he hoped local authorities would punish those using celebs’ photos for commercial purposes illegally.

Singer My Linh and her husband Anh Quan had to publicly reject rumors that his snoring was a problem in their marriage after a brand claimed it had helped him stop snoring at night.

These advertising scams have negatively affected consumers’ health and robbed them of their hard earned money.

Many people have bought cosmetic products and functional foods supposedly endorsed by their idols, only realizing later that they have been duped

Nguyen Thi Nhan, an office worker in Hanoi’s Long Bien District, said: "My husband spent millions on pills for baldness which has photos of comedian Cong Ly in its commercial. But it did not work."

In many Facebook groups, people have begun warning others about products related to celebrities, saying many have been next to useless.

In the long run, if these false advertisements keep appearing on the Internet, consumers will lose their faith in the influencers, warned Do Tuan Hai, CEO of The A-List, a network connecting influencers and brands.

To sue or not to sue

With more than 68 million Internet users, Vietnam has become a hotbed of social media influencer marketing.

Since several celebrities have hundreds of thousands to millions of followers on their social media pages, their posts and videos easily go viral.

To attract more patrons, many online businesses have attached their products with photos of local stars or fake stories of how they helped the celebs change their lives.

While such actions are blatantly illegal, most of the culprits remove their posts after receiving complaints, so no legal action has been launched against them.

"I know we can sue them, but many artists do not have to use tough measures, because we just need to post the stories on our social networks and those posts will be removed," Ly said.

Saigon-based lawyer Ha Hai told the Lao Dong Newspaper that artists should sue brands using their photos illegally, so that such crimes are not repeated in the future.

Celebrities endorsing products has been a hot topic recently, with many earning big bucks, even though the claims have been exaggerated or proven false. It seems that this trend is coming home to roost.

Last month, the HCMC Propaganda Department told local associations to manage artists endorsing products on the internet.

It expressed concern that many artists endorse functional foods, cosmetics and medicines that could be harmful to people’s health.

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