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.

There is no doubt that a good amount of the budget coming from e-commerce and marketing departments from various companies and brands is allocated to offering of products and services, as well as organizing contests and promotions.

E-commerce in 2019 will consolidate as a distribution channel as important as retail. Is not a secret for anyone that this is a powerful growing mean, because nowadays retailers look to increase sales through this channel in order to reach potential clients, surpassing barriers such as distance, time and displacement. Quick to adapt to this trend, Instagram and its Sponsored Contents have taken on an essential role due to Instagram’s popularity; Instagram is the social media platform favored by newer generations, and the platform that generates the highest level of interaction among millennials and generation Zers, who happen to be users under the age of 35.

Cyber-criminals, as a consequence of this, have found an opportunity to take advantage of the situation to attract this highly desired 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 the platform’s users constantly discover new products via Instagram, and at least 30% buy a product that they have never seen before.

Instagram has obtained its largest growth in the past few years, and nowadays it boasts more than 1000M active monthly users, and shows no signs of slowing growth. Companies using Instagram as an advertising outlet as well as platform users should prepare themselves to come across non-authorized ads that wish to displace legitimate brands and mislead users.

Cyber-criminals also run marketing campaigns

There is no doubt that a good amount of the budget coming from e-commerce and marketing departments from various companies and brands is allocated to offering of products and services, as well as organizing contests and promotions.

These departments usually include the usage of ads promoted by Instagram in their annual workplans, which allows 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 these capabilities offered by Instagram: hackers and online counterfeit sellers will also allocate a vast amount of their income to posting ads on the social media platform itself. Along with that, there is an additional threat gaining traction: Promoted Rogue Content. Rouge Content is promoted when fake ads whose ultimate goal is to promote and place replicas create false profiles that clone official profiles of large brands and/or blogs, and also redirect the user to rogue sites.

The difficulties of detecting rogue sites

The proliferation of Promoted Rogue Content on Instagram directly affects the online reputation of brands. Thousands of loyal clients and followers interact daily with content exclusively created to promote counterfeits via rogue sites, which are designed according to the look & feel of known brands, and of course with the intent purpose of impersonating brands.

In order to tackle these sites, cyber-criminals previously created fake profiles that used a brand as a profile picture, and attracted a 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 frequently encounter many ads between posts, which likely contain fake profiles advertising offers that do not correspond to the advertised brand. These fake adds lead to rogue sites that infringe upon the legitimate brand. If the user decides to make a purchase, there is a high probability that the product received is indeed fake, or that the client doesn’t receive anything at all. These illicit procedures lead to damages to the legitimate brand’s reputation due to the ease in which cyber-criminals impersonate it, as well as creating and spreading false ideas regarding the quality of the product, or even increase the number of complaints on the official distribution channels the brand offers to the public.

Instagram users facing these types of cases will 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 market studies indicate that affected users will talk about it with at least 6 other users, leading to a negative impact on the sales. Therefore, Promoted Rogue content entails a problem for everyone.

In order to address the issue of impersonation of the brand through this social media platform, it is recommended to be protected against the practice by using brand protection platforms and the assistance of industry experts.

In 2019, it will be vitally important for brands and companies to rely on brand protection services as part of their marketing investment.


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.

Cibercriminal: 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.

Do you want to know if your brand is being counterfeited or used without your permission online?

If you want to know if your brand is at risk online, ask for a free audit at Smart Brand Protection

Sources:, – Author: Jose Ignacio Carrillo de Albornoz, Chief Legal Officer in Smart Protection