A Creator Christmas Carol: Instagram Star Chiara Ferragni Fined For Misleading Fans About Charity Campaign

Chiara Ferragni with hand clutching chin
Chiara Ferragni/Instagram Pearly Design/Shutterstock

As we enter the season of goodwill to all men, it’s not surprising that a number of influencers are using their platform for more charitable endeavors. In fact, creators like MrBeast have constructed a whole brand around their altruism because kindness simply sells. But the only thing worse than not doing any good at all is when that good deed ends up being exposed as shallow, performative, and even, in the case of Italian influencer Chiara Ferragni, misleading.

Chiara Ferragni, who has 29.6 million followers on Instagram, was fined €1.075 million (aka, $1.179 million) on Dec. 15 for claiming that profit on a “designer” pink pandoro cake she was selling to fans would be used to fund the Regina Margherita children’s hospital in Turin.

In a statement posted to social media, Chiara Ferragni claimed that she made “a mistake in good faith … to link a commercial activity with a charitable one.”

But the Italian government’s competition watchdog organization investigating her claim disagreed. They found that buyers of the $9 cake (which, according to the BBC, is more than twice the price of the usual unbranded cake) were misled into thinking that sales proceeds would be used to pay for children’s hospital equipment.

Instead of donating sales money to the hospital, Balocco, the cake manufacturer, only donated €50,000 to the hospital months before the cake was even put on sale.

Balocco also paid the influencer €1 million to promote the cake via her two companies.

But what can we, as creators, learn from this case of false advertising?

The trouble with this case is that if Chiara Ferragni is telling the truth, and she didn’t actually realize she was acting fraudulently, it doesn’t matter. This sequence of events will remain a stain on her career no matter what she does next, because once you lose your audience’s trust, that’s it.

So, when it comes to engaging in charitable endeavors as a creator, it’s of vital importance that you know exactly what you’re talking about and that there’s no room allowed for ambiguity and scandal. Ironically, otherwise, the cost is just too high.

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