If you’ve ever given a product to an influencer or celebrity in return for their endorsement, you’ll want to continue reading. The Federal Trade Commission recently updated its endorsement guidelines, officially called Dot Com Disclosures, and there are some specific updates that marketers will need to be aware of.
The update states that disclosures “must be clear and conspicuous on all devices and platforms that consumers may use to view the ad.” And if an advertisement without a disclosure would be deceptive or unfair, or would otherwise violate a Commission rule, and the disclosure cannot be made clearly and conspicuously on a device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used.”
Plainly stated, advertisers now have to make sure disclosures on mobile and other online platforms are clear and deception-free. With that in mind, it could be a challenge for sponsored tweets, which will now have to dedicate some of that 140-character limit to creatively integrating disclosures.
To illustrate the challenge, the FTC created a fictional celebrity, “JuliStarz,” and had her issue the following fake tweet: “Shooting moving beach scene. had to lose 30lbs in 6 wks. Thanks Fat-away Pills for making it easy. Bit.lyf56.” The FTC said that tweet wouldn’t meet its standards for several reasons. The first being that it doesn’t disclose that JuliStarz is a paid-endorser for Fat-away Pills.
Another issue is that given the nature of tweets, having a separate tweet from JuliStarz disclosing her affiliation would be “problematic,” according to the FTC, “because unrelated messages may arrive in the interim.” Followers might not realize that there’s a link between the two messages. Individuals aren’t allowed to state that some tweets are endorsements in their bios either.
If you regularly pay celebrities for sending endorsements to their followers or buy prominent placement for 140-character ads, the FTC suggests flagging those tweets by including “Ad:” at the beginning of it or the word “sponsored.” It might make it trickier for you to fit in your messaging how you intended it, but it’ll help you avoid a potential investigation.
While these updates won’t apply to every brand — and there are specific guidelines for working with bloggers as well — they’re important to be aware of. Most enforcement cases involving celebrities have been directed toward marketers rather than the celebrities, and in some instances, advertisers have been ordered to give full or partial refunds to all consumers who bought the product.