Posted March 13, 2013 7:00 pm by with 3 comments

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dot-com-coverThe FTC just released an updated version of their dot com disclosures guidelines (aka rules) which was originally released in 2000. A few things have changed since then, but the FTC’s stand on “clear and conspicuous” disclosures hasn’t and that could be a problem for advertisers.

Everyone loves social and mobile, but both outlets are hampered by a lack of useable space. The FTC understands this, but they’re not backing down. My interpretation of the guidelines – find a way to make it happen or don’t post ads to mobile and social. If they start enforcing that, it’s going to be one heck of a crack down.

Here is just a portion of the instruction son how to make a disclosure clear and conspicuous:

  • Place the disclosure as close as possible to the triggering claim.
  • Take account of the various devices and platforms consumers may use to view advertising and any corresponding disclosure.
  • When a space-constrained ad requires a disclosure, incorporate the disclosure into the ad whenever possible.
  •  When using a hyperlink to lead to a disclosure,  make the link obvious and  place the hyperlink as close as possible to the relevant information it qualifies and make it noticeable
  • Preferably, design advertisements so that “scrolling” is not necessary in order to find a disclosure. When scrolling is necessary, use text or visual cues to encourage consumers to scroll to view the disclosure.
  • Keep abreast of empirical research about where consumers do and do not look on a screen.
  • Recognize and respond to any technological limitations or unique characteristics of a communication method when making disclosures.
  • Review the entire ad to assess whether the disclosure is effective in light of other elements — text, graphics, hyperlinks, or sound — that might distract consumers’ attention from the disclosure.

I appreciate that they’re trying to protect the consumers from fraud but some of these statements are insane. Such as, it’s the advertisers duty to keep abreast of empirical research on where consumers look? It’s a good idea to be well informed, but this seems excessive, doesn’t it?

And that’s just a selection of guidelines. The actual document contains 15 points, some with sub-points.

Twitter Guidelines

The new FTC report makes an example out of a fictional celebrity Tweet.

juli tweet 1This Tweet doesn’t meet the requirements because a) it doesn’t note that she was paid to endorse the product and b) it omits the qualifier that her weight loss was not typical.

Even if the link leads to a webpage with those disclosures, it’s still out because people who go and buy Fat-Away at the drug store won’t see the information.

Here’s the recommended version:

juli tweet 2The FTC says they don’t like the use of #SPON at the end of a Tweet because people might not understand that it’s short for sponsored.

They also say that putting #SPON after the link “might confuse consumers and make it less likely that they would understand that it is a disclosure.” Seriously?

They even go so far as to say if you put the word “disclosure” as part of the link, it’s not enough because people may not realize they’re supposed to click.

Come on. This is moving into “caution, coffee is hot” territory. Do we really have to pander to the lowest common denominator?

The FTC guidelines often refer to what a “reasonable” person might assume. Well, wouldn’t any “reasonable” person assume that when a celebrity mentions a brand name diet pill that the results might be paid for and not typical.

It’s good that the FTC has updated their guidelines to include new forms of media, I just hope that these guidelines are designed as way to prosecute really scammers – not hard-working small business people who are just trying to sell their product or service.

If you’re advertising online, then you should take some time to review the new .Com Disclosures report from the FTC.

  • kevdog

    “Such as, it’s the advertisers duty to keep abreast of empirical research
    on where consumers look? It’s a good idea to be well informed, but this
    seems excessive, doesn’t it?”

    Given the amount of eye tracking studies done by advertisers and other media outlets, no.

  • That tweet doesnt claim to lose weight………it just says what they needed to do. They also said the pills made it easy…..doesnt make any claims of weight loss from the pills

  • Titanium metal

    Hai..good post…very informative blog..thanks for posting