PMA Blogger Guidelines for FTC Disclosure Requirements
The FTC announced that it issued over 90 letters to influencers and marketers regarding proper relationship disclosure in Instagram posts. Although it did not release names, it did provide to the public a sample letter that gives some insight into the the FTC’s views.
The letters focused on truth-in-advertising laws including the .Com Disclosures issued by the FTC. They stressed that “material connections” must be disclosed clearly and conspicuously. In the case of Instagram, this means that the disclosure must be made before consumers have to click “more” to read the entire post description. Additionally, the language used by the influencers was not always clear to consumers including “#sp,” “Thanks [Brand],” or “#partner.”
These letters give brands and influencers (including affiliate marketers) more guidance as to what the FTC expects regarding disclosure on social media. Although no formal action was taken against the brands or the influencers, the letters serve as a warning to anyone engaging in these types of social media posts.
The PMA (Performance Marketing Association) guide, “Blogging and New Media Disclosure Information” is attached for your review. It covers many of the things these new FTC letters touched on including when and where disclosure is required. There are specific examples of situations you may face as a blogger and affiliate marketer. The new guidance from the FTC about Instagram is directly in line with everything they have said so far about making it clear to consumers anytime there is a material relationship between the influencer and the brand.
Here are two of the example scenarios included in the guide:
- A college student who has earned a reputation as a video games expert maintains a personal “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinion about video game hardware and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write a review. Because his review is disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. The manufacturer should advise him at the time it provides the gaming system that this connection should be disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for compliance.
- A skin care products merchant participates in a blog advertising service. The service matches up merchants with bloggers who will promote the merchant’s products on their personal blogs. The merchant requests that a blogger try a new body lotion and write a review of the product on her blog. Although the merchant does not make any specific claims about the lotion’s ability to cure skin conditions and the blogger does not ask the merchant whether there is substantiation for the claim, in her review the blogger writes that the lotion cures eczema and recommends the product to her blog readers who suffer from this condition. The merchant is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made through the blogger’s endorsement. The blogger also is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made in the course of her endorsement. The blogger is also potentially liable if she fails to disclose clearly and conspicuously that she is being paid for her services.
Read a related article on Marketing Land with more insights about disclosure requirements from Tricia Meyer of the PMA and "Sugarrae", a super affiliate.
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