Be sure to use words like delicious, splendid, juicy,. You can use the information you shared as “Step 1” for just about any type of content you produce online or offline. Let's say you know someone who talks to you about a great new product. She tells you that it works great and offers fantastic new features that no one else has.
Would that recommendation influence your decision to purchase the product? Probably. Now let's suppose that the person works for the company that sells the product, or that the company has paid him to promote it. Would you want to know when evaluating the sponsor's enthusiastic recommendation? You bet. That common-sense premise is the basis of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) approval guidelines.
The Guides, in essence, reflect the basic principle of truth in advertising that supports should be honest and not misleading. The endorsement must reflect the sincere opinion of the sponsor and cannot be used to make a claim that the product's marketer cannot legally make. Do some research and find an enthusiastic review on someone's blog that a particular resort is the most luxurious place you've ever stayed. If you knew that the hotel paid hundreds of dollars to the blogger for saying good things about it, or that the blogger stayed there for several days for free, that could affect how important you would be to the blogger.
The blogger should, therefore, inform his readers about this relationship. Another principle of the Guides applies to ads that are supported by people who have achieved exceptional or even above average results. An example is a promoter who says she lost 20 pounds in two months with the advertised product. If the advertiser has no proof that the sponsor's experience represents what people typically achieve with the product as described in the ad (for example, taking one pill a day for two months), an ad featuring that sponsor should make it clear to the audience what the expected results are generally expected.
In addition, financial agreements between some bloggers and advertisers may be obvious to industry experts, but not to everyone else who reads a particular blog. According to the law, an act or practice is deceptive if it deceives “a significant minority of consumers”. Even if some readers are aware of these offers, many readers don't. Usually not, but if we have questions about potential violations of the FTC Act, we evaluate them on a case-by-case basis.
If law enforcement becomes necessary, we will normally focus on advertisers or their advertising agencies and public relations firms. However, taking action against an individual sponsor may be appropriate under certain circumstances, such as if the sponsor has continued to fail to make the required disclosures despite warnings. The FTC Act applies in all areas. The question is, and always has been, whether the audience understands the reviewer's relationship with the company whose products are recommended.
If the audience understands the relationship, there is no need to disclose it. The purpose of the Guides is to give an idea of what the FTC thinks about the various marketing activities that involve sponsorships and how Section 5 could be applied to those activities. The Guides themselves have no force of law. However, practices that are incompatible with the Guidelines may result in police action for alleged violations of the FTC Act.
Police actions can result in orders requiring the defendants in the case to hand over the money they have received for their violations and to meet several requirements in the future. Despite inaccurate news, there are no “fines” for violations of the FTC Act. If you mention a product that you paid for yourself, there's no problem. It's also not a problem if you get the product for free because a store delivers free samples to its customers.
The question you should ask yourself is whether knowing that gift or incentive would affect the weight or credibility that your readers give to your recommendation. If it could, then it should be disclosed. For example, participating in a sweepstakes or contest for a chance to win a thousand dollars in exchange for a guarantee could affect how people view that endorsement. Determining if a small gift would affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement can be difficult.
It's always safer to share that information. Even an incentive with no financial value could affect the credibility of a guarantee and would have to be disclosed. The Guides give the example of a restaurant customer who is offered the opportunity to appear in television advertisements before giving their opinion on a product. Since the possibility of appearing in a television commercial could influence what someone says, that incentive should be disclosed.
I have a YouTube channel that focuses on hunting, camping, and outdoor activities. Sometimes I review the product. Knife makers know how much I love knives, so they send me knives as a gift, hoping that I'll check them out. I have no obligation to talk about any knives and receiving the knives as a gift doesn't affect my judgment.
Do I have to say it when I talk about a knife that was given to me as a gift? Even if you don't think that will affect your review of the product, what matters is whether the fact of knowing that the knife was given to you can affect the way your audience sees what you say about the knife. It doesn't matter that you don't have to check every knife you receive. Your viewers might value your opinion differently if they knew that the knife was given to you as a gift, so we recommend that you reveal that fact. It may depend on what you say about it, but every new promotion that is made without disclosing it could be misleading, since readers might not see the original blog post in which you said that the manufacturer gave you the product for free.
A trade association hired me to be their “ambassador” and promote their next conference on social networks, mainly on Facebook, Twitter and on my blog. The association only hires me five hours a week. I disclose my relationship with the association in my blogs and in the tweets and publications I publish about the event during the hours I work. But sometimes I get questions about the conference in my spare time.
If I respond via Twitter when I'm not officially working, do I have to make a disclosure? Can this be solved by placing a badge for the conference on my Twitter profile? You have a financial connection to the company that hired you, and that relationship exists regardless of whether or not you get paid for a particular tweet. If you support the conference in your tweets, your audience has a right to know your relationship. That said, some of your tweets in which you answer questions about the event may not be supportive, because they don't convey your opinions about the conference (for example, if someone simply asks you for a link to the conference agenda). In addition, if you answer someone's questions about the event via email or text message, that person probably already knows your membership or won't ask you.
You probably wouldn't need a disclosure in that context. However, when you respond via social media, all your followers see your posts, and some of them may not have seen your previous revelations. Regarding posting the conference badge on your Twitter profile page, it's not enough to publish it on a profile page, as it's likely that many people in your audience won't see it. In addition, depending on what you say, the badge may not adequately inform consumers of your connection with the trade association.
If it's simply a logo or a hashtag for the event, it won't reveal to consumers your relationship with the association. Knowing that you received free travel and accommodation could affect the importance that your readers give to your opinions about the product, so you should disclose that you have a financial relationship with the company. Of course, if you have no relationship with the advertiser, your posts simply aren't subject to the FTC Act, no matter what you show or say about the product. The FTC Act only covers promotions conducted on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser.
Labeling a brand that you are wearing is an endorsement of the brand and, like any other guarantee, could require disclosure if you have a relationship with that brand. Some influencers only label the brands of their sponsors, others label brands that they have no relationships with, and others do a little of both. Followers may not know why you tag a dress and some may think you're doing it just because you like the dress and they want them to know. People who read your posts in their news section (or on your profile page) may not know where you work or what products your employer manufactures.
Many companies are so diversified that readers may not realize that the products you're talking about are being sold by your company. A famous athlete has thousands of followers on Twitter and is known as a spokesperson for a particular product. Do you have to disclose that you get paid every time you tweet about the product? It depends on whether your followers understand that they are paying you to promote that product. If they know you're a paid sponsor, there's no need to reveal it.
But if a significant part of your followers don't know, the relationship should be revealed. Determining if followers are aware of a relationship can be complicated in many cases, so we recommend that you disclose it. A famous celebrity has millions of followers on Twitter. Many people know that they often charge advertisers to mention their products in their tweets.
Do you have to disclose when you get paid to tweet about products? It depends on whether your followers understand that your product tweets are paid promotions. If a significant part of your followers doesn't know it, you need to disclose it. Once again, determining that could be complicated, so we recommend that you disclose it. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, not the FTC) law requires television stations to include information about product placement in television programs.
What happens if the host of a television talk show expresses her opinion about a product, say a video game, and she gets paid for the promotion? The segment is entertaining, humorous and not that the presenter is an expert. Is it different from placing a product? Should the payment be disclosed? If you write about how much you like something you bought on your own and they don't reward you, you don't have to worry. However, if you do so as part of a sponsored campaign or receive compensation (for example, if you get a discount on a future purchase or if you enter a raffle for a major prize), it's appropriate to disclose it. However, an advertiser who buys fake “likes” is very different from an advertiser that offers incentives to get “likes” from real consumers.
If the “likes” come from non-existent people or from people who have no experience using the product or service, it is obvious that they are misleading and both the buyer and seller of the false “likes” could face coercive measures. No, you are not responsible for any changes that the seller has made to your review. You could, and probably should, file a complaint with the seller and ask them to stop using your modified review. You can also file complaints with the FTC, your local consumer protection organization, and the Better Business Bureau.
The goal is to give readers the essential information. A simple revelation such as: “Company X gave me this product to test. I'm reviewing a video game that hasn't been released yet. The manufacturer pays me to test the game and review it.
I intended to reveal that the manufacturer gave me a “preview” of the game. Isn't that enough to make people aware of my relationship with the manufacturer? No, it's not. Having early access doesn't mean you've been paid. Taking a “look” at the game doesn't even mean you can keep the game.
If you have early access, you can say so, but if you keep the game or get paid, you should say so. Would it suffice to say on my home page that “many of the products I talk about on this site are provided to me by their manufacturers for free? No, because consumers can easily overlook the disclosures in the video description. Many people may watch the video without even seeing the description page, and those who do may not read the disclosure. Disclosure is more likely to be clear and prominent if included in the video itself.
That's not to say that you can't include revelations in both the video and the description. Just because a platform offers a feature like that doesn't guarantee that it's an effective way for influencers to reveal their material connection with a brand. It still depends on an evaluation of whether the tool clearly and visibly reveals the relevant connection. One factor that the FTC will consider is location.
Disclosure should capture users' attention and be placed where they aren't likely to miss it. A key consideration is the way users view the screen when using a particular platform. For example, on a photo platform, users who view your broadcasts are likely to see the eye-catching images. Therefore, a revelation placed above a photo may not attract their attention.
Similarly, a reveal in the bottom corner of a video might be too easy for users to miss. Second, the disclosure should use an easy-to-read font with a contrasting background that makes it stand out. Third, the disclosure must be written in a way that is understandable to the common reader. Ambiguous phrases are likely to be confusing.
For example, simply pointing out that a publication contains paid content may not be sufficient if the publication mentions several brands and not all of the mentions were paid. The general point is that the ultimate responsibility for clearly disclosing a material connection lies with the influencer and the brand, not the platform. You can superimpose a revelation on Snapchat or Instagram Stories in the same way that you can superimpose any other word on the images on those platforms. The outreach should be easy to see and read the moment your followers have to look at the image.
To determine if your post is approved, the factors you should consider include how much time you spend with your followers looking at the image, how much competing text needs to be read, how large the outreach is and how well it contrasts with the image. You may want to have a strong background behind the outreach. So that they don't hear a broadcast that is only audio. Obviously, other general outreach guidelines would also apply.
Is it enough for a sponsor to say “thank you” to the sponsoring company? Not. Thanking a company or brand doesn't necessarily mean that the sponsor received something for free or that something was given in exchange for an endorsement. The person posting on social media could simply be thanking a company or brand for offering an excellent product or service. But “Thank you XYZ” for the free product or “Thank you XYZ” for the gift of the ABC product would suffice, if that's all you got from XYZ.
If it's too long, “Sponsored” or “Announcement” appears. Depending on the context of the promotion, it may be clear that the sponsor got the product for free and kept it after testing it. If that isn't clear, then that disclosure wouldn't be enough. In addition, such disclosure might not be sufficient if, in addition to receiving a free product, the sponsor were paid.
These one-word hashtags are ambiguous and probably confusing. In blogs, there is no problem with a limited number of characters available. So, it would be much clearer if you said something like: “I am a paid consultant for XYZ sellers” or “I work with the XYZ brand” (where XYZ is a brand). Of course, it's possible that a shorter message would be effective.
For example, something like “XYZ_Consultant” or “XYZ_Advisor” might work. But even if a disclosure like that is clearer, no disclosure is effective if consumers don't see or read it. A reveal at the end of the video is more likely to be overlooked, especially if someone doesn't see everything. Having it at the beginning of the review would be better.
Having several revelations during the video would be even better. Of course, no one should promote a link to your review that omits the beginning of the video and omits the disclosure. If YouTube has been allowed to publish ads during your video, information that doesn't appear in the ads won't be clear or visible. Since viewers can tune in to the broadcast at any time, they could easily miss a reveal at the beginning of the broadcast or at any other point in the broadcast.
If there are several periodic revelations throughout the broadcast, people are likely to see them no matter when they tune in. To be cautious, you can have continuous, clear, and compelling outreach throughout the broadcast. In addition to disclosing my relationship with the company whose product I'm promoting, what essential things should I know about promotions? You can't make claims about a product that require proof that the advertiser doesn't have. The Guides give the example of a blogger who was commissioned by an advertiser to review a new body lotion.
Although the advertiser doesn't make any claims about the lotion's ability to cure skin conditions and the blogger doesn't ask the advertiser if there is any basis for her claim, she writes that the lotion cures eczema. The blogger is subject to liability for making statements without having a reasonable basis for those statements. No, it's likely that many readers don't understand that a hashtag like this means that those posts were made as part of a contest or that the people who published them received something of value (in this case, the chance to win the contest prize). Simply include the word “contest” or “giveaway” in the hashtag.
However, the word “sweep” probably isn't, because a lot of people probably don't understand what that means. A company offers me a free product for me to review on a particular website or social media platform. They say that if I voluntarily review it on another site or on a different social media platform, I don't need to make any disclosures. If you received a free or discounted product to leave a review somewhere, your connection to the company should be revealed everywhere you promote the product.
It's not realistic to expect you to be aware of all the statements made by a member of your network. However, it's up to you to make a reasonable effort to know what your network participants are saying. That said, the activity of a dishonest blogger is unlikely to be the basis of police action if your company has a reasonable training, monitoring, and compliance program. Our company's social media program is run by our public relations firm.
We ask them to ensure that what they do and anyone they pay to on our behalf complies with the FTC Guidelines. Is that good enough? As for where to place a disclosure, the guiding principle is that it should be clear and eye-catching. The closer it gets to your recommendation, the better. Placing disclosures in unfamiliar places (for example, on an ABOUT US or GENERAL INFORMATION page, behind a mislabeled hyperlink or in a “terms of service agreement”) is not enough.
Nor is placing it below your review or under the link to the online store so that readers have to continue browsing once they finish reading it. Consumers should be able to easily understand information. They shouldn't have to look for it. Is the “affiliate link” in and of itself an appropriate disclosure? How about a “buy now” button? Consumers may not understand that “affiliate link” means that the person who places the link gets paid for the purchases they make through the link.
Similarly, a “buy now” button would not be adequate. What if I include links to product sellers or retailers to make it easier for my readers, but they don't pay me for them? If it's clear that what's on your site is a paid advertisement, you don't have to make additional disclosures. Just remember that what's clear to you may not be clear to everyone who visits your site, and the FTC evaluates ads from the perspective of reasonable consumers. If your company allows employees to use social media to talk about its products, make sure that your relationship is disclosed to people who read your online posts about your company or its products.
Put yourself in the reader's shoes. Isn't the working relationship something you'd like to know before relying on someone else's support? Including your employer on your profile page isn't enough. After all, people who only read what you post on a review site won't get that information. People who read your post on a review site probably don't know who you are.
You should definitely disclose your employment relationship when making an endorsement. First of all, an advertising agency (or any other company) shouldn't ask employees to say anything that isn't true. No one should endorse a product they haven't used or say things they don't believe about a product, and an employer certainly shouldn't encourage employees to engage in that behavior. Our company website includes testimonials from some of our most successful customers who used our product over the past few years and mentions the results they achieved.
We cannot now find out what the “generally expected results” were back then. What should we do? Do we have to delete those testimonials? Second, if your product is the same as it was when the promotions occurred and the claims are still accurate, you can probably use the old promotions if the disclosures are consistent with the results that are generally expected now. Although services may say that a review is not “mandatory”, at least it is implied that a review is expected. For example, if an app developer gave you their 99-cent app as a gift for you to review, that information might not have much effect on the weight that readers place on your review.
And even assuming that the reviewers of your program are unbiased, your customers have the right to know which reviewers received the products for free. You will rephrase your thesis statement and highlight the importance and usefulness of your food review. In addition, reviewers who receive free products can give them higher ratings on a scale, such as the number of stars, than reviewers who purchased the products. When the review contains a clear and visible description of their relationship and the reader can see both the review containing that disclosure and the link at the same time, readers have the information they need.
Right now, not only are they more willing to give you feedback as a form of reciprocity for good work, but they're also more likely to give you a good review. In addition, if you discover that an employee has posted a review on the company's website or on a social network without properly disclosing their relationship with the company, you should remind them of the company's policy and ask them to remove that review or to properly disclose that they are an employee. .