TOKYO—Japanese artists hired by Walt Disney Co. to promote “Frozen 2” on Twitter said they were instructed to hide that they were paid for the work, contradicting Disney’s initial explanation that the omission was accidental.
“The agency that hired us for this campaign requested that we not label our work as a promotion,” said an artist who publishes under the name Kosame Daizu in a tweet.
The artist, who has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, tweeted a cartoon last week in which he depicted some characters in “Frozen 2” and reviewed the movie favorably. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Other artists involved in the campaign also apologized. An artist who goes by the name Yamato Nadeshiko tweeted that an earlier tweet praising “Frozen 2” wasn’t labeled as promotional in accordance with the client’s directions.
Disney initially said it had intended to ask the artists to show that the tweets were part of an official advertising campaign, and it called the absence of disclosure a lapse.
On Wednesday, Disney issued a new statement acknowledging repeated cases in which artists were hired to promote Disney movies on social media without disclosure. Some of the artists who endorsed “Frozen 2” had earlier published cartoons on Twitter promoting Disney movies such as “Avengers: Endgame” and “Captain Marvel” without mentioning a connection to a company promotion.
Disney said the “Frozen 2” case and similar examples were caused by failure to comply with internal marketing guidelines. It didn’t say who failed to comply or why.
The cartoonist known as Kosame Daizu didn’t identify the agency that told him to hide the promotional nature of his work. Disney hired multiple agencies to help it promote “Frozen 2” including a unit of Dentsu Inc., Japan’s largest advertising and public relations group, Dentsu employees said.
Representatives of Dentsu, Disney’s Japan unit and Disney headquarters in California didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In the U.S., regulators have said that social-media posts by influential people promoting a product or service are problematic if the influencers are paid and don’t disclose it. The Federal Trade Commission said in 2017 that influencers “should clearly and conspicuously disclose” paid work.
Japan’s consumer laws bar false or misleading advertising, but an official at the country’s Consumer Affairs Agency said the agency hasn’t issued guidance on paid posts by influencers.
Public-relations professionals in Tokyo said it was common in Japan for companies to pay influencers for social-media posts without disclosing the relationship. Some artists said the practice was troubling because fans would assume any favorable post about a product or service was the result of an undisclosed payment, even when it wasn’t.
Source: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL