Celebrities are girding themselves for a public humiliation after it emerged that Channel4’s Dispatches programme has caught three Coronation Street actresses endorsing a fake product on Twitter.
However this appears to be just the beginning as the investigative programme has been seeking to lure unsuspecting people prepared to make certain claims based on free gifts as well as companies who bend the law on commercial promotion.
The four Corrie actresses – Brooke Vincent, who plays Sophie Webster, Cherylee Houston (Izzy), Krissi Bohn (Jenna) – were persuaded to endorse a product called ‘Puttana Aziendale’ which actually means ‘Corporate Whore’ in Italian.
It is understood that the actresses received the fake company’s skin products and healing bracelets at a corporate event in Manchester earlier this year, and could have breached Advertising Standards Authority guidelines. The rules state that sponsored messages on social networks should be clearly marked to avoid tricking followers.
The celebrities were given ‘Puttana Aziendale’ ‘anti-ageing skin toner’ – in actual fact just tap water – and a ‘zionate bracelet’ which was supposed to generate ‘positive energy’ but was really only costume jewellery.
Brooke Vincent, who is the third actress to play the lesbian character Sophie Webster, wrote on Twitter: ‘Thank you to @aziendale for my lovely healing anklet!! 🙂 xx’
Bohn, whose character is Sophie’s girlfriend in the soap, tweeted: ‘@Aziendale Love my bracelet!! Thanks guys – My cold hands will become a thing of the past!!’
Cherylee Houston (Izzy Armstrong) posted a photograph of the bracelet on her wrist and the skin toner, and said: ‘I’ve slept in my bracelet and I’ve sprayed my face several times. Thank you so much I love them!’
Another actress to be caught in the sting was former Hollyoaks actress Sinead Moynihan. Moynihan has since hit back, changing her twitter profile to read: Mum & actress. All opinions expressed here are purely my own and are in no way intended to endorse any product or person. Ok? That clear? Great!”
A C4 source said the programme, which has not yet got a broadcast date, will explore the wider issue of online marketing, including the commercial activity of big companies and accounts that pay for Twitter followers or pay people to send certain Tweets.
The same issues are explored over Facebook use as well, the source added.
“Essentially there seems to be a problem about people reading certain things and the average person not knowing what is going on,” added the source. “It is not just about celebrities although celebrities are used to promote things to people who probably don’t understand what is going on.”
It is understood that the story has leaked out because Channel 4 has sent out letters offering celebrities a right of reply.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: “We do not comment on upcoming Dispatches programmes.’
An ITV statement said: “Cast members responded to tweets sent directly to them by some brands to say thank you. Contrary to the allegations which have been made, they didn’t receive free gifts in return for tweeting or indulge in any kind of unlawful marketing promotion.”