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FTC’s New Endorsement Guides Get Tough on Disclosures

13 Sep, 2017 By: Doug McPherson


WASHINGTON – Endorsers on social media need to disclose any connections with businesses when writing reviews and posting, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises in its new endorsement guidelines.

Endorsers should disclose any relationships with the businesses or people they endorse – even friendships or family ties.

One example: If the owner of a new restaurant invites family and friends to eat for free, then those people discuss that on social media, they should say that they ate for free and that they have a relationship with the owner.

“It may be relevant to readers that people endorsing your restaurant on social media are related to you. Therefore, they should disclose that personal relationship,” the FTC writes. “If someone who eats for free at your invitation posts about your restaurant, readers of the post would probably want to know that the meal was on the house.”

Another example the FTC shared involves book authors who belong to a group that posts reviews in social media for each other, for free. The agency says that although no one is being paid for the reviews, people should still disclose their connections to the authors. “There doesn’t have to be a monetary payment,” the FTC writes. “The connection could be friendship, family relationships, or strangers who make a deal.”

The FTC says it isn’t mandating the use of any particular words, it also says that starting a tweet with #ad “would likely be effective.” But the guidelines specifically advise bloggers against using some words or phrases for disclosures, including #client, #advisor, and #consultant.

“Such one-word hashtags are ambiguous and likely confusing,” the FTC writes. “It would be much clearer if you say something like ‘I’m a paid consultant to the marketers of XYZ.’”

Some attorneys say the new guidance indicates that endorsements on social media remain a high priority, and that the FTC is taking a hardline position on online endorsements. David Mallen, an advertising lawyer with Loeb & Loeb, told MediaPost News that marketers’ increased reliance on social media might be spurring the agency’s continued activity.

“This is, in a way, the future of advertising, and of engaging with consumers, and so the FTC has decided it’s really important to be active in this space,” he says.

The new guidance came out last week – the same week the FTC announced it sent warning letters to 21 online influencers.


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