It would seem that “tell the truth” would be a simple rule for online marketers and their friends to follow, but the Federal Trade Commission finds it has to elaborate for brand endorsers. And John C. Norling, an attorney from Phoenix-based Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, elaborates on those explanations.
“The key to disclosure under the new regulations is that disclosures must be made in a clear and conspicuous manner,” he tells Target Marketing on Wednesday night. “Disclosures made by way of rapid-fire audio or very fine print will not suffice. Online ads should not rely on hyperlinks for disclosures. If at all possible, the disclosures should be made on the same page as close as possible to the offer.”
Basically, anyone endorsing a product or service for money or in-kind payments should say so, according to the FTC. That’s what the commission’s always said, reads its release from May 29. The commission said something similar in 2009 and 2010.
— FTC (@FTC) May 29, 2015
“More than five years have passed — a lifetime in blog years — but the legal principles remain the same,” reads the FTC press release. “What has changed are the kinds of questions we’re getting. So we’ve updated ‘FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People are Asking’ to cover the trending and topical.”
The FTC starts with its basic guidelines: Tell the truth, don’t mislead; endorsers need to clearly disclose any connections with marketers; and say what consumers will really get out of a product or service if endorsers have a far different experience.
While today’s endorsers may believe they have a far more challenging environment in which to meet the guidelines the FTC FAQ shows that that may not be the case:
- What about a platform like Twitter? How can I make a disclosure when my message is limited to 140 characters?
- The FTC isn’t mandating the specific wording of disclosures. However, the same general principle — that people get the information they need to evaluate sponsored statements — applies across the board, regardless of the advertising medium. The words “Sponsored” and “Promotion” use only 9 characters. “Paid ad” only uses 7 characters. Starting a tweet with “Ad:” or “#ad” – which takes only 3 characters — would likely be effective.
Revisiting Norling, he says: “For all ads regardless of the type of media, when doing disclosures or disclaimers, remember the four ‘Ps’: Proximity to triggering claim; presentation in a manner to be easily understood by the consumer; prominence — try to use same font and colors as triggering claim; and placement where consumers will easily see the information.”
What else should marketers consider before seeking endorsements?
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