I read this morning on The Economist website that the FTC updated their guidelines on endorsements and testimonials. The guidelines, which were last updated in 1980, used to dictate that if the described effect of a certain product was not “typical” the advertiser could still use said testimonial, as long as they mentioned somewhere (likely in small print on the bottom corner of the ad) the line we have all come to know and love, “results not typical”. It’s not that easy anymore, and advertisers must now clearly state what “typical” results are.
Also included in the updated document is the reiteration that “material connections” between advertisers and endorsers must be made clear. Now, we all know that Peyton Manning isn’t advertising double stuffed oreos because he believes in double cream filling that much. But in cases where a compensated connection isn’t so clear–let’s say a blogger writing a “review” of a certain product that was actually given to them and/or they were compensated for–the FTC says you must now tell us that. From the FTC press release:
Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.
That extends to a celebrity mentioning a product in non-traditional advertising, such as a talk-show or other interview.
Lastly, the FTC made it clear that both advertisers AND ENDORSERS can be held liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an advertisement. So before you (get paid to) endorse something, make sure it’s the real deal. Which most of us (not that I’m ever paid to endorse anything) do…..and I’m not taking pot shots at anyone specific here.
Please note that these are guidelines, not law:
The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.
Sorry for the wordy and not-generally-what-this-blog-is-about post, but it caught my attention and figured it was worth writing about.