FTC revised its Guides to Testimonials & Endorsements in late 2009. Goal is to eliminate deception by ensuring its clear to everyday people when a testimonial / blog / review / tweet is a corporate-sourced endorsement.
It came out that bloggers could be fined up to $11K / violation. This lit up the blogosphere.
FTC responded, ensuring bloggers they were safe, but needed to make a few adjustments if they are empanelled as part of a marketing program. http://www.ftc.gov/multimedia/video/business/endorsement-guides/endorse_mary-q2.shtm
Everyone would agree with this.
Gets a little more vague but still reasonably clear.
Vagueness dominates. What if the review was “neutral” … would that be considered an endorsement, would that need to be disclosed? How do you quantify “various”?
Real world example: If CNET reviews product, most people would assume the publication received a free sample, no disclosure needed.
But let’s say the review runs on a blog, NOW does it need to be disclosed?
Or let’s say the CNET reviewer mentions it in her own Twitter stream. NOW is disclosure mandated? In the real world, disclosure requires sound personal judgment, informed by the letter AND spirit of the FTC guides.
Performance claims are the most under-reported aspect of the guides, but it’s an immensely important consideration for marketers, especially those in the health, diet and personal care industries.
Message to marketers: if you let the bull out of the barn, you are responsible for what the bull does.
Message to publishers: your blog (or lifestream) = an advertisement (in certain circumstances)
The highest risk is the start of the money flow.
Some instances of social media ethics are black & white
PR firm Reverb dispatches its staff to review client products on the Apple Store. BusinessWeek catches wind.
FTC determines wrongdoing
PR firm settles with FTC. Owners held personally accountable.
Visited PR firm’s website for comment … but no website there.
Most of the time, social media ethics is a “shades of gray” discussion.
Case Study: Ann Taylor Loft
Held a private event for bloggers. Gave attendees a special gift, and the opportunity to blog for a prize. Even had a sign that said they need to disclose gifts. But not everyone did.
FTC investigated, but didn’t take action. Simply not a public enough transgression, nor egregious enough.
Case study: Kim Kardashian / Carl’s JR.
Slideshow in AdAge points out that Kim Kardashian earns as much as $10K tweet!
Here’s the drama that ensued …
Kim tweets about her plans to go grab a new chicken salad at Carl’s Jr.
People recall that she did that add. And her tweet didn’t disclose relationship.
She said relationship over, this was an “organic” tweet.
Turns out, she gets the $10K through a celebrity/Twitter marketplace: Ad.Ly
All tweets hardwired with this disclosure
The $11K question … is it sufficient?
FTC leaves it up to us. They give guidelines, not rules.
WOMMA’s Code is a great start
Another viable model: CMP.ly – disclose everything via a badge, and collect data too.
Next wave of debate? Contests, geosocial, and transactional buttons with no “disclosure field” (e.g., Facebook Like buttons)
Are contests a form of consideration Do you have to disclose the POSSIBILTY of compensation? Is “hope” a material connection?
Some check-ins or Likes don’t include a text field – how can you disclose?
The WSJ recently did an expose on a company called RapLeaf that is able to track you right down to your name and social media profiles. Although they say they don’t share personally identifiable information with their advertising partners, is that degree of tracking ok?
In the same WSJ series, the paper looked at the practice of “scraping” – in which a company uses software to aggregate as much information about people as possible …
In this instance, the company (Nielsen) penetrated a private community where patients shared information about their illnesses and medication.
Although Nielsen said they have discontinued this practice, it begs the question: what do they (and others) already know about you? What are responsible data collection practices?
Eloqua social media ethics syracuse
Social Media Ethics
Director of Content, Eloqua
Co-chair WOMMA Member Ethics Advisory Panel