Marketing has changed in profound ways. When we started using the phone instead of the letter, or mobile phone instead of the land line, our lives changed in significant ways.
Truth in advertising is important in all media, whether they have been around for decades like television and magazines or are relatively new like blogs and social media. They simply recommend those products to their readers because they believe in them.
Moreover, the financial arrangements between some bloggers and advertisers may be apparent to industry insiders, but not to everyone else who reads a particular blog.
Are you monitoring bloggers? Generally not, but if concerns about possible violations of the FTC Act come to our attention, we evaluate them case by case. If law enforcement becomes necessary, our focus usually will be on advertisers or their ad agencies and public relations firms.
Action against an individual endorser, however, might be appropriate in certain circumstances, such as if the endorser has continued to fail to make required disclosures despite warnings.
Does the FTC hold bloggers to a higher standard than reviewers for traditional media outlets? The FTC Act applies across the board. On a personal blog, a social networking page, or in similar media, the reader might not realize that the reviewer has a relationship with the company whose products are being recommended.
Disclosure of that relationship helps readers decide how much weight to give the review. What is the legal basis for the Guides? The FTC conducts investigations and brings cases involving endorsements made on behalf of an advertiser under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which generally prohibits deceptive advertising.
The Guides are intended to give insight into what the FTC thinks about various marketing activities involving endorsements and how Section 5 might apply to those activities.
However, practices inconsistent with the Guides may result in law enforcement actions alleging violations of the FTC Act. Law enforcement actions can result in orders requiring the defendants in the case to give up money they received from their violations and to abide by various requirements in the future.
I heard that every time I mention a product on my blog, I have to say whether I got it for free or paid for it myself. Nor is it an issue if you get the product for free because a store is giving out free samples to its customers.
The FTC is only concerned about endorsements that are made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. For example, an endorsement would be covered by the FTC Act if an advertiser — or someone working for an advertiser — pays you or gives you something of value to mention a product.
Bloggers who are part of network marketing programs, where they sign up to receive free product samples in exchange for writing about them, also are covered.
Does that still have to be disclosed?
The question you need to ask is whether knowing about that gift or incentive would affect the weight or credibility your readers give to your recommendation. If it could, then it should be disclosed. For example, being entered into a sweepstakes or a contest for a chance to win a thousand dollars in exchange for an endorsement could very well affect how people view that endorsement.
Determining whether a small gift would affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement could be difficult. Even an incentive with no financial value might affect the credibility of an endorsement and would need to be disclosed. The Guides give the example of a restaurant patron being offered the opportunity to appear in television advertising before giving his opinion about a product.
Because the chance to appear in a TV ad could sway what someone says, that incentive should be disclosed. My company makes a donation to charity anytime someone reviews our product.
Do we need to make a disclosure?
Some people might be inclined to leave a positive review in an effort to earn more money for charity. The overarching principle remains: If readers of the reviews would evaluate them differently knowing that they were motivated in part by charitable donations, there should be a disclosure.Ex-CSO Alex Stamos says no one at Facebook ever told him not to examine Russian interference, but company's comms strategy of minimization and denial was wrong — Alex Stamos is a Hoover fellow and adjunct professor at Stanford skybox2008.com previously served as the chief security officer at .
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