Feds update disclosure standards for online ads, including tweets
Ads can be deceptive and unfair no matter how short they are
Sunday, March 17, 2013
OK, it's oh so clever to send out a short tweet about a life-changing new shampoo or a really cool new snack bar, but look out. If it's a paid endorsement or advertisement, it has to be labeled as such.
The Federal Trade Commission last week released a new document -- guidance for mobile and other online advertisers -- that spells out just how clear those disclosures need to be. Answer: very clear.
How can you do it in a tweet? Simple: put "ad:" in front of the hucksterism you're putting out there. Same goes for endorsements or "likes" on Facebook. It can't look like a personal endorsement or gee-whiz exclamation if someone's paying for it.
Laws apply equally
The new set of guidelines make it clear that consumer protection laws apply equally to marketers across all mediums, whether delivered on a desktop computer, a mobile device, or more traditional media such as television, radio, or print.
If a disclosure is needed to prevent an online ad claim from being deceptive or unfair, it must be clear and conspicuous. Under the new guidance, this means advertisers should ensure that the disclosure is clear and conspicuous on all devices and platforms that consumers may use to view the ad.
Disclosures must be clear enough that they aren't "misleading a significant minority of reasonable consumers," the FTC said.
The new guidance also explains that if an advertisement without a disclosure would be deceptive or unfair, or would otherwise violate a Commission rule, and the disclosure cannot be made clearly and conspicuously on a device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used.
The 2000 guidance stated that to help ensure clear and conspicuous disclosures, advertisers should consider the disclosure’s placement and proximity to the relevant ad claim, its prominence, whether audio disclosures are loud enough to be heard, and whether visual disclosures appear for long enough to be noticed.
Although the 2000 guidelines defined proximity as “near, and when possible, on the same screen,” and stated that advertisers should “draw attention to” disclosures, the new guidance says disclosures should be “as close as possible” to the relevant claim.
Like the original guidance, the updated Dot Com Disclosures calls on advertisers to avoid using hyperlinks for disclosures that involve product cost or certain health and safety issues. The new guidelines also call for labeling hyperlinks as specifically as possible, and they caution advertisers to consider how their hyperlinks will function on various programs and devices.
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