Yesterday FishbowlNY told you about Ashton Kutcher guest editing an issue of Details, which would be no big deal, but he promoted a slew of products that he invests in without clearly disclosing that to readers.
Apparently – and we missed this yesterday – there was a single line in the introduction of the issue that stated Kutcher was “[Putting] his money where his mouth is, backing many of the companies he champions here.” But that might not be enough, because the incident has now attracted the eyes of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The New York Times reports that by not being more clear about the companies and products he was promoting, Kutcher might have committed a federal crime. Richard Cleland, the FTC’s assistant director of the division of advertising practices, explained:
If you’re out there promoting individual products that you have a specific investment in, it needs to be disclosed. If you have a significant economic investment that is not otherwise apparent, that may potentially affect the credibility of your endorsement, and I see that as a potential problem.
Dan Peres, Editor-in-Chief of Details, is taking the “any press is good press” route regarding Kutcher. He told the Times:
If you read Ashton’s editors letter, you’ll see he succeeded in his mission to get people to talk about and even criticize this social issue. I stand by how we communicated Ashton’s involvement with some of the companies included in our coverage and remain extremely proud of the work we did on this project.
While the FTC stopped short of saying it was definitely going to investigate the situation, the end result remains the same: both Kutcher and Details looking ridiculous and amateurish. Peres might act like he’s happy, but your magazine getting press for doing something stupid isn’t exactly going to get you any new readers.
The FTC just tweeted to us that Kutcher is in the clear. The FTC “is not and has no plans to investigate Ashton Kutcher.”