News article taken from Libation Law Blog
Most people are probably very unaware, but the FTC has very strict guidelines regarding the disclosure of any relationship a company has with someone tweeting or blogging reviews of their products.
The Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines “Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” are a pretty short read. Which is interesting given that they can amount to some extremely hefty penalties for any winery or brewery that has bloggers or tweeters talking about their products without disclosing the relationships between the brewers, winemakers, distillers and the social media user that’s posting something positive about their beverages.
The bottom line is that when there’s any form of connection between someone posting an endorsement and the product that they’re endorsing that isn’t “reasonably expected by the audience”, the connection must be disclosed.
This debate has been slowing simmering away for the last few years, and it’s only going to start heating up, now that bloggers are getting more widespread. Companies from all sectors have been reasonably quick to react, and are learning how to leverage the power of the “influencers” in order to market their products.
A great example is the Ann Taylor case, from a couple of years ago. Bloggers were offered a “special gift,” and promised that those posting coverage from the event would be entered into a “mystery gift-card drawing,” where they could win between $50 and $500. Since Ann Taylor hadn’t determined that bloggers would disclose they had received gifts for posting blog content about that event. The FTC were, in short, pissed.
Personally, I feature a “transparency” clause on the sidebar of all my pages, but I know I’m one of the few bloggers that has taken this step.
The main thing I worry about is how the FTC plan’s on tracking “promoted content” on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, when these platforms don’t allow for any type of disclaimer verbiage?
I don’t think it’s going to be too long (if it isn’t happening already) before companies start paying influential figures to change their Facebook/Twitter profile to incorporate an image of their product in exchange for cash/free goodies.