New FTC .com advertising disclosure guidelines

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  • 1. Your LIF™style Communications PartnerFTC updates its .com advertising disclosure guidelinesOVERVIEWIn March 2013, the Federal Trade Commission revised its online or .com advertisingdisclosure guidelines. Communications between brands and consumers havedramatically changed in recent years as a result of social media and moresophisticated mobile technologies. The FTC report addresses how disclosures statementsshould appear in social, mobile and other digital channels.The new guidelines are designed to ensure businesses and organizations do not misleadthe public on any platform, regardless of the format and space limitations. Sponsoredor ad disclosures must be clear and prominent for the consumer to identify andunderstand.KEY FINDINGS  What has changed o Consumer protection laws apply equally to marketers across all mediums o Clearer understanding with regards to the inclusion of disclosures in digital marketing channels o Report includes details pertaining to social media and mobile advertisements o FTC suggests advertisers/agencies should think like a consumer and assume that they do not read the entire website  How to Meet the Standard o Disclosures must be “clear and conspicuous” as always, but there is a greater emphasis on the use of hyperlinks o If the particular platform affects the opportunity to provide a disclosure, that platform should not be used as a resource for advertisements that require a disclosure o Insert hyperlink no matter how limited the space is (i.e. Twitter)  Call to advertisers to stop using hyperlinks for disclosures that involve product costs or health and safety issues  Hyperlinks that redirect to disclosures should: o Be obvious o Labeled appropriately o Be consistent o Placed within close proximity of relevant information o Redirect consumers instantly to the disclosure on the click-through page o Asses effectiveness of the hyperlink 2 T r a n s A m P l a z a D r i v e , S u i t e 4 5 0 , O a k b r o o k T e r r a c e , I L 6 0 1 8 1 | 6 3 0.9 3 2.4 2 4 2 | w w w . j s h a . c o m
  • 2. o Take into account the numerous devises a consumer will use to view information o Design an advertisement so that consumers do not have to “scroll” down to find the disclosure  Use text to guide consumers to the disclosure if “scrolling” is necessary o Keep up-to-date with research and statistics on where consumers do and do not look on a web pages o Respond to any communications errors and limitations when making disclosures o Keep disclosures simple so consumers understand  Using different font, size, color, etc. can help highlight disclosures  Advertisers should not distract away from disclosure and must be mindful of other elements on the screen o Repeat disclosures as needed o Use audio disclosures when making an audio claimNEW DISCLOSURE STANDARD ON SOCIAL MEDIAAccording to the new guidelines, advertisers are required to designate if a post is“sponsored” and place the disclosure at the beginning of a message. Many marketerscommonly used “#spon” as an abbreviation of “sponsored” on Twitter to disclose, butthis practice is no longer valid under new disclosure guidelines.Instead, a “sponsored” disclosure must be spelled out and placed at the beginning ofthe message. As an alternative, the FTC recommends using “Ad:” as a shorteralternative at the beginning of a message, especially on Twitter where space is limited.  Appropriate Disclosures o Place near a claim it qualifies o Place near relevant information o Ensure disclosures fit all screens  Limit “scrolling” or slide over on mobile screens because it can be missed by consumers o Label the link to emphasize its importance and relevance Mobile screen not zoomed Mobile Screen -zoomed 2 T r a n s A m P l a z a D r i v e , S u i t e 4 5 0 , O a k b r o o k T e r r a c e , I L 6 0 1 8 1 | 6 3 0.9 3 2.4 2 4 2 | w w w . j s h a . c o m
  • 3. BAD Disclosure statement should be closer to the price and purchase call-to-action; Consumer should not have to scroll. GOOD Move for better proximity, label as disclaimer. o Disclosure is included along-side the information it claims, no matter how much space Bad Bad Good2 T r a n s A m P l a z a D r i v e , S u i t e 4 5 0 , O a k b r o o k T e r r a c e , I L 6 0 1 8 1 | 6 3 0.9 3 2.4 2 4 2 | w w w . j s h a . c o m
  • 4. o Make disclosure obvious by using different colors, fonts, styles BAD GOODMobile screen Disclosure hard to read; easier to background read; Good masks use of color colored and close tohyperlink – not important information SPACE LIMITS DON’T MATTER The new guidelines present the greatest challenges on outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, where communication space is extremely limited. Although the FTC acknowledged the challenge that limited space presents to marketers, companies still have to make necessary disclosures clearly and conspicuously. The FTC report also states: “if a particular platform does not provide an opportunity to make clear and conspicuous disclosures, then that platform should not be used to disseminate advertisements that require disclosures.” INVALID DISCLOSURES In some cases, marketers included a link that redirected to disclosure information. The service Cmp.ly was specifically created to assist with disclosure statements by adding links in social media updates. The new FTC guidelines now consider this an unacceptable practice. In addition, every message is treated as its own entity versus as part of a conversation and thereby requires a disclosure statement within each message where one is required. UNANSWERED QUESTIONS It is unclear what the FTC expects from advertisers when using certain visual platforms such as Twitter’s new service Vine and Facebook’s Instagram. In both cases, messages are available on multiple spaces. Twitter’s Vine, which is limited to 6 second videos, may be impossible to use for endorsements. 2 T r a n s A m P l a z a D r i v e , S u i t e 4 5 0 , O a k b r o o k T e r r a c e , I L 6 0 1 8 1 | 6 3 0.9 3 2.4 2 4 2 | w w w . j s h a . c o m
  • 5. The FTC guidelines state that visual disclosures should be visible for “a sufficientduration.” On Vine, would one second be considered a sufficient duration for adisclosure, which would constitute about 17 percent of the video’s length?It is vague what would be considered valid or in violation of the new guidelines.WHAT SHOULD BRANDS DO?  Update social media policies to implement the guidelines  Interagency cooperation is imperative and brands should ensure that all agencies and brand teams involved are up-to-date and plans are aligned  Review content so placement of disclosures are relevant and sufficient  Ensure that disclosures are obvious and easy to access across all platforms and all company social media accounts  Before posting, ensure that all content that requires a disclaimer includes one  Verify that disclosures are in the same body of text as the content (especially watch out for Twitter)  Keep disclaimers relevant and appropriate  Do not distract fans from disclaimers  Remember, no screen or message is exempt from the rules regardless of space limitations  For brands who collaborate with a spokesperson, make sure communications on social media include appropriate disclosures wherever appropriateIN CONCLUSIONBottom line: Advertisers shouldn’t mislead consumers in any way regardless of theplatform or space limitations. Considering how quickly news and information spreadsthrough Twitter and other similar formats, it’s not a good idea to do so.Alternatively, the FTC suggests that advertisers may wish to consider stepping back andreformulating the ad claim to get rid of the need for a disclosure in the first place. Wewhole-heartedly agree.Be clear. Be honest. Be social. 2 T r a n s A m P l a z a D r i v e , S u i t e 4 5 0 , O a k b r o o k T e r r a c e , I L 6 0 1 8 1 | 6 3 0.9 3 2.4 2 4 2 | w w w . j s h a . c o m