The internet is buzzing with the pros and cons of FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, 16 CFR Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. You can read the full text by downloading the PDF .
The revised guides are effective December 1, 2009 – Merry Christmas from the U.S. Government.
While many have focused on the impact on bloggers who do product reviews, the guides cover television, hidden camera endorsements, expert endorsements and much more.
A few things that caught my eye:
“Results not typical” statements are no longer acceptable. The FTC tested the statements and found that the disclaimer was ineffective. You should report the general results not the outliers.
You can be liable for making false statements, even if you’re reading a script.
We may never see another celebrity endorser. Lesser known working actors can rejoice, because there may be a few more roles for you to play. Celebrity endorsers must disclose a paid relationship whether they are talking about a product on a talk show, on their personal blog or website or in a company sponsored ad.
Advertisers and bloggers are held responsible for misleading statements. Advertisers must train and monitor bloggers doing reviews. Note the text below that follows one of the many detailed examples (Example 5) in the guide:
“In order to limit its potential liability, the advertiser should ensure that the advertising service provides guidance and training to its bloggers concerning the need to ensure that statements they make are truthful and substantiated. The advertiser should also monitor bloggers who are being paid to promote its products and take steps necessary to halt the continued publication of deceptive representations when they are discovered.”
Experts must exercise their expertise in comparing products and offering testimonials. Many information marketers use testimonials and endorsements from “experts” in their product advertisements. This too is being held to a new standard:
“…the expert must have concluded that, with respect to those features on which he or she is expert and which are relevant and available to an ordinary consumer, the endorsed product is at least equal overall to the competitors’ products. Moreover, where the net impression created by the endorsement is that the advertised product is superior to other products with respect to any such feature or features, then the expert must in fact have found such superiority.”
The FTC uses very specific examples to point out acceptable actions and those that will be called into question. If Tiger Woods endorses a golf club, he is held to a different standard because he is a well known celebrity who is associated with golf. A spokesperson doing the same endorsement not associated with golf is held to different standards.
Before reading the guides, I believed the issue to be as simple as disclosing financial relationships. After reading them, it will impact my actions going forward in providing testimonials and endorsements.
Have you read the guidelines? If so, do you have any concerns or is this a good thing?
By the way, I was not paid to write this post!
- FTC to Fine Bloggers up to $11,000 for Not Disclosing Payments (mashable.com)
- FTC: Bloggers, celebrities beware! (money.cnn.com)
- FTC to bloggers: Fess up or pay up (news.cnet.com)
- Potential FTC Fines Raise Big Blogging Questions (webpronews.com)