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FTC/ASA Disclosure Guidelines for Blogs, Content and Editorial Sites

What You Need to Know

Disclaimer: The information and opinions within this content are for information purposes only. Guidance is based on personal interpretations and in no way represent legal advice.

See notes below the infographic for clickable links to additional resources and summaries.

 

Rakuten Marketing
Compliance Policy   //  Blog
Why is a Disclosure Important?
It is important to incorporate disclosures as a publisher to not only be compliant with Rakuten policies, but also to ensure you are compliant with government agencies (FTC, ASA, etc...). Disclosures are required if there is a 'material connection,' meaning someone makes money from promoting/advertising a brand. This includes influencers, blog writers, coupon sites, etc… – anyone who is using affiliate links! Essentially, the disclosure's purpose is to help visitors/consumers understand that by clicking on the link, the publisher earns a commission.
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Rakuten Marketing Policies
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Publisher Membership Agreement
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Government Bodies
FTC - Federal Trade
Commission - US
ASA - Advertising
Standards Authority - UK
CAP - Committee of
Advertising Practice - UK
Four Standards of Publisher Disclosure
Frequent
1. Frequent
Disclosures must be on every page of your site that promotes a product for which you receive any form of compensation.
Frequent
2. Clear
The disclosure must make it clear to the reader that you are compensated for your review - it should not be hidden in legalese.
Frequent
3. Conspicuous
The disclosure must be conspicuous and easy to see on your site. It has to stand out from other text on the page so that it is immediately evident to all visitors. The disclosure text must be as large or larger than the main text and must be colored/contrast with both with its background and the main text.
Frequent
4. Require No Action
Your disclosure must be immediately visible to anyone who visits your reviews or endorsements. The visitor should not be required to take any action to view it.
Example Disclosure
DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission.
Do's & Don'ts
Social Media
Do
  • Use hashtags like #ad, #advertisement, #sponsored, or #promotion - these terms are commonly understood by consumers and marketers alike
  • Place at the very beginning of your post
  • Use #ad, #sponsored, or #promotion on your stories
  • Youtube: Include written disclosure at the beginning of the video description
Don't
  • Put disclosure at the bottom of the post or mix in middle of other hashtags
  • Only rely on tagging the advertiser
  • Make it difficult for your visitor to know you're being compensated for your post
  • Youtube: Only include a disclosure on your video content
Blog | Editorial | Content Site
Do
  • Ensure your disclosure appears ‘above the fold,’ meaning the visitor doesn’t have to scroll down to see it. Placing your disclosure ‘above the fold’ makes it easy for the visitor to identify
  • Make your disclosure stand out
  • Explain what an affiliate link is – make it clear to the consumer/visitor what clicking on the link will do
  • Put your disclosure on every page that contains affiliate link(s)
  • Make sure your disclosure is easy to read- i.e contrasting colors (black text on white background)
  • If hyperlinking to a disclosure page- be sure link is in a color that stands out to consumer. All the other elements above still stand for this option. (Example: We earn a commission when you follow the link to make a purchase. Click here to learn more about how we make money.)
Don't
  • Put at the footer of your site, or in an inconspicuous spot (i.e. middle of the page on the side, bottom of post, etc…)
  • Put in color or font that is difficult to read (i.e. light grey on white background)
  • Only put a disclosure on your home page, on a disclosure page, or a link to one in your footer
  • Make your disclosure tough to understand
  • Only state ‘we use affiliate links’
DISCLAIMER:
The information and opinions within this content are for information purposes only. Guidance is based on personal interpretations and in no way, represents legal advice.
Rakuten Marketing

 

Recap

Disclosure is important not only to be compliant with our Rakuten Marketing and advertisers' policies, but to ensure you are compliant with all relevant governmental regulations. Disclosures are required for anyone who is making money from these ads -- including using affiliate links.  The purpose is to help consumers understand that the publisher may earn money from clicking on a link.

Disclosures should  be:

  1. Frequent
  2. Clear
  3. Conspicuous
  4. Require No Actions

Other key elements of disclosure guidelines:

  • Disclosing your relationship to the brand is another way you can be sure you are compliant.
  • The disclosure guidelines apply to influencers as well as publishers.
  • Disclosures in “About Us,” “General Info,” “Terms of Service,” or “Privacy Policy” sections do not meet the criteria for clear and conspicuous.
  • A “Buy Now” button might not be understood that the person placing the link is getting paid for purchases through the link.
  • If a publisher's affiliate links appear on someone else’s website or in user comments, a disclosure should be included anytime a product is endorsed and the publisher receives compensation.
  • A disclosure is not required if there is no material connection.
    • For example, if you want to promote a brand’s product on your own, and you are not partnered with that brand, and only share it simply because you love it, you don’t need to add a disclosure.
  • Posting an image of an advertiser's product on social media could be seen as a material connection and would require a disclosure to accompany it.
  • It is important to include both an audible and visual disclosure on videos or live streams as consumers can enter and exit a video/live stream as they please; therefore, a clear and conspicuous visual disclosure should be available.
  • All the above information for disclosure guidelines applies to mobile sites and apps.

Digital marketing and disclosure guidelines will continue to change and evolve, so it is important to be aware of any changes and be sure you are always being transparent with consumers.

Follow the suggested guidelines above and do your own research about other guidelines that may apply to your specific site content.

Additional Information and Resources

Federal Trade Commission Guidelines:  

Advertising Standards Authority:

Rakuten Marketing Affiliate Network Policies:

FTC and CAP Code are not the only regulatory agencies enforcing the rules. Other countries will have their own marketing and advertising laws and regulatory bodies that publishers will need to adhere to.  We highly recommend that you refer to the rules and guidance applicable to each jurisdiction as this will allow you to make sure that you are not breaking rules on advertising. 

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