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The FTC’s Revised Endorsement Guides
A SEGMENT OF THE GUIDE
Suppose you meet someone who tells you about a great new product. It performs exactly as advertised and offers fantastic new features. Would that endorsement factor into your decision to buy the product? Probably.
Now suppose you learn that the person works for the company that sells the product – or has been paid by the company to tout the product. Would you want to know that when you’re evaluating the endorser’s glowing recommendation? You bet. That common-sense premise is at the heart of the issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency.
The revised Guides – issued after public comment and consumer research – reflect three basic truth-in-advertising principles:
- Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading;
- If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances; and
- If there’s a connection between the endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.
Since the FTC issued the revised Guides, advertisers, ad agencies, bloggers, and others have sent questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
ABOUT THE ENDORSEMENT GUIDES
Are the FTC Endorsement Guides new?
The Guides aren’t new, but they’ve recently been updated. It’s always been the law that if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer – or if an endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the marketer’s product – the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear. The reason is obvious: Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement. Say you’re planning a vacation. You do some research and find a glowing review on someone’s blog that a certain resort is the most luxurious place they’ve ever stayed. If you found out that the hotel had paid that blogger to say great things about it or that the blogger had stayed there for a week for free, it could affect how much weight you’d give the blogger’s endorsement.
Why did the FTC revise its Endorsement Guides to include social media?
The FTC revised the Guides because truth in advertising is important in all media – including blogs and social networking sites. The FTC regularly reviews its guides and rules to see if they need to be updated. Because the Endorsement Guides were written in1980, they didn’t address social media. The legal principles haven’t changed. The FTC revised the examples to show how these standards apply in today’s marketing world.