A press release was posted to the Federal Trade Commisioin Website yesterday, announcing that the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising were being updated. The last time a revision to these guidelies occoured was in 1980. This update will implement changes that will affect Testimonial Advertisements, Bloggers and Celebrity Endorsements.
Full disclosure has been a hot topic around the web lately with many bloggers being proactive about disclaimimg endorsements they received for blogging. Others are not so keen on the idea of having to disclose their relationships when newspapers are not required to do the same. The new guidelines have some bloggers afraid they will receive hefty fines, up to $16,000. Thankfully the FTC has stated they will be looking mostly at the advertisers when passing out fines and not at individual bloggers.
The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed.
These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.
What is not clear from the press release is how this will apply to social networking. Will you have to disclose your endorsement in a tweet? According to an interview with the FTC’s Richard Cleland by Caroline McCarthy, this could be a real possibility.
Prominent users of Twitter and Facebook won’t be exempt from controversial new Federal Trade Commission guidelines that keep tabs on blogger freebies and giveaways, The agency absolutely plans to keep tabs on social networks as well as blogs.
The new guidelines go into effect on December 1st, 2009. How do you feel about this change and the way it will impact blogging?