By Alan Graner
This blog is based on “The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People are Asking” https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking. Although the article refers to several social media platforms, I’ve concentrated on blogging for the sake of brevity.
You can read the “FTC section on the Revised Endorsement and Testimonial Guides, 16 CFR Part 255” in its entirety at https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/press-releases/ftc-publishes-final-guides-governing-endorsements-testimonials/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf.
Pat the BlogMeister has just endorsed U.S. Widget’s MegaWidget as the best widget ever made and goes on to explain why. Since you respect Pat’s opinion, you decide the MegaWidget must be pretty good.
But what if you discovered Pat was paid to endorse the MegaWidget. Would that change your opinion? Would you consider his review fair and unbiased?
The FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission’s) Endorsement Guides, revamped for social media, answers such questions. The Guides “reflect the basic truth-in-advertising principle that endorsements must be honest and not misleading.”
Furthermore, “…if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.”
In other words, if you endorse a product or service and were paid to do so, or you received it for free, you’re required to disclose that fact.
If your blog reviews restaurants and you receive free meals, you must disclose which restaurants did so, allowing readers to assess how fair your review might be.
If you endorse a product you actually use or like and don’t receive any payment from the company, you don’t have to make any disclosures.
If a significant number of your readers knows you’re a paid spokesperson for a product, you don’t have to make any disclosures every time you mention the product.
If you review a product and a marketer changes it to suit their own needs, you don’t have to make any disclosures.
If you receive, for free, a $100 app to review, you must make full disclosure.
If you get a sneak peak of a new video game you can mention that. However, if you’re paid to review it or you receive the game for free, you must disclose that.
- Talk about your experience with a product if you haven’t tried it
- Can’t gush about a product you think is terrible
- Can’t make claims requiring proof the advertiser doesn’t have
Disclosures must be clear and conspicuous
Readers shouldn’t have to search for your disclosures.
Generally, they should be close to the claims they’re related to in an easy-to-read font that stands out from the background.
Disclosures should not be hidden or buried in footnotes, in blocks of text where people aren’t likely to read them, or in hyperlinks.
You can read the FTC’s pdf on “How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising” at https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/press-releases/ftc-staff-revises-online-advertising-disclosure-guidelines/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf.
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business marketing content and distribution firm. For content that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.