For podcast personalities leveraging their social media presence for clients, new Federal Trade Commission guidance should help clear up when and how advertising disclosures are required. The FTC has released a new, simplified “Disclosures 101” guide that offers tips from FTC staff about what triggers the need for a disclosure and offers examples of both effective and ineffective disclosures.
“If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship with the brand,” the FTC guide says. It says that connection includes not only receiving something for free or at a discounted price, but if the financial benefit goes to an employer or family member. “Telling your followers about these kinds of relationships is important because it helps keep your recommendations honest and truthful, and it allows people to weigh the value of your endorsements,” the FTC says, adding, “As an influencer, it’s your responsibility to make these disclosures.”
The biggest issue remains when to disclose? The FTC says that requirement kicks in whenever the person making the social media mention has any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand. It also notes it’s not just money. “If a brand gives you free or discounted products or other perks and then you mention one of its products, make a disclosure even if you weren’t asked to mention that product,” its guidelines say. The FTC also says if someone doesn’t have a brand relationship and they’re just telling people about a product they bought and happen to like, there is no requirement that someone state they don’t have a brand relationship.
When it comes to writing the disclosure, the FTC says the rule of thumb is making sure the disclosure is easy to see and understand. That includes placing it so it’s hard to miss, such as right in the promotional message. It also recommends not including the disclosure in a dump of hashtags at the end of a post, or on an “about me” or profile page. “If making an endorsement in a live stream, the disclosure should be repeated periodically so viewers who only see part of the stream will get the disclosure,” its guide says. And if the endorsement comes in a picture, the FTC says the disclosure should be superimposed on the image.
Michael Atleson, an attorney in the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, told NPR the marketers paying influences are responsible for informing them of the rules. "That's because an endorsement is an advertisement that the influencer is making on the advertiser's behalf," Atleson said, adding, “In terms of our own law enforcement activities, our focus so far has been on advertisers or their ad agencies and public relations firms.” During the past three years the FTC has gone after five influencers for deceptive marketing.
Download a copy of the FTC’s new eight-page guide HERE.