Changes to FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines on endorsements and testimonials were made active on December 1. And seven days later, I'm happy to report that I, a blogger, have not been sued. Neither, chance are, have you.
There was a huge stink about these proposed changes a few months back. Mob mentality won over common sense, and the assumption was that bloggers were going to be fined $11,000 if they failed to mention the book they just reviewed was purchased from Barnes & Nobel with a 15% coupon.
What do the new guidelines mean for bloggers?
Probably nothing. The overview by the FTC on this page is pretty good, but I think this short PDF of the revised guidelines is even better. And if you want the whole story, check this 81 page PDF. It's overkill, but for the complete-ists out there; have at it. But back to "probably nothing".
The new guidelines -- the first change to the endorsements & testimonials section since 1980 -- require marketers to be honest, forthright and clear when using endorsements and testimonials. What a crazy concept. If you're the endorser or provider of the testimonal -- bloggers, for the purpose of this discussion -- then you have an obligation to do the same and disclose if you were compensated for your endorsement.
Chances are, you already do that. And if you don't; start. It requires you do nothing more than say "Ford let me drive this new car for a week, and here's what I think". Again, you probably do this already.
Marketers are responsible for what compensated endorsers say.
That's the biggest change. If Snapple sends out free samples of a new beverage to specific bloggers as part of an outreach campaign, they have an obligation to make sure the endorsements are real and true. That's an oversimplification, but it's close enough. If one of those bloggers posts about how the drink cured them of lung cancer, the marketer is on the hook. The blogger is on the hook as well, and probably by more than just the FTC.
My advice to bloggers is simple:
- Don't lie. If your really didn't think it was the best ever, don't say it was. Don't shill.
- Disclose received compensation. Getting it for free for the purpose of blogging or tweeting about it is compensation. Getting a free sandwich because you bought nine others is not.
My advice to marketer is even more simple:
- Don't try and deceive. "Results not typical" will be a thing of the past. Finally.
And yes, the fine for infractions can be up to $11,000 per occurrence. Will you get caught if you break the new laws? I sincerely hope so.
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- The New FTC Guidelines, How Fair Is It? (wassupblog.com)