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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Cleland’

New FTC Guidelines Go Into Effect Tomorrow; Social Media Campaigns Continue Unabated

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The FTC “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” officially go into effect tomorrow.

That being said, the changes have not slowed down so called “word of mouth” programs, especially by retailers in full holiday sales mode. “Don’t expect the FTC’s new guidelines on product endorsements to put a damper on social-media efforts,” wrote Advertising Age‘s Michael Bush today, citing numerous agency and internal brand marketers.

For example, blogger Melanie Notkin — known as Savvy Auntie — posted numerous Twitter updates from her sponsor JC Penny over the weekend and into today. Not all contained disclosure. Notkin herself admits to the rules being vague. “I don’t know. I try my best to make it clear,” she tweeted, in regards to if she only has to disclose her sponsor once, then is free to tweet and blog away with no disclosure.

Richard Cleland, Assistant Director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, told our sibling blog AgencySpy last Wednesday, in reference to tweets from tennis star Serena Williams: “When it is clear from the context of a communication that the celebrity is being paid, an additional disclosure is not required.” At this point, it seems the only thing that is clear is that everything is unclear. Marketers and bloggers alike should err on the side of caution, and it could be that “some will get screwed and some won’t” as one source put it to us this morning.

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Did The FTC Just Open Up Even More of a Slippery Slope on Disclosure?

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As our brother blog AgencySpy reports, it seems there is even more muddiness around the FTC’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” which were recently updated to include social media channels.

Case in point: the above Tweets by tennis star Serena Williams. Williams has been a celebrity brand ambassador for Nabisco for more than a year. And one of her Tweets does state that she is “shooting a campaign” for the brand. However, not all of Williams’ 1 million plus followers may know that she is a paid endorser, especially if they see the second Tweet out of context.

Richard Cleland, Assistant Director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, told AgencySpy: “Although we do not generally comment publicly about ongoing advertising campaigns, it seems pretty clear that Serena Williams’ tweet about Nabisco Calorie Pack is sponsored advertising. (She says that she is shooting a campaign for Nabisco). When it is clear from the context of a communication that the celebrity is being paid, an additional disclosure is not required.”

It seems the takeaway here is: you have to disclose, except when you don’t have to.

FTC Clarifies Blogger Guidelines: ‘We’ve Never Brought a Case Against Somebody Simply for Failure to Disclose’

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Since the FTC announced its revised “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” this past Monday, there has been much debate and discussion by advertising, PR, media and marketing professionals as to their ramifications.

There have also been many misinterpretations of the guidelines, namely that bloggers who fail to disclose relationships with advertisers or sponsors will be fined up to $11,000. Many blogs – PRNewser included – reported the $11,000 number.

So where did the misinterpretation come from? “$11,000 is what people used to have to pay when they violated a federal court order that resulted from FTC charges of deceptive advertising,” FTC Public Affairs Specialist Elizabeth Lordan tells PRNewser. “The current figure is $16,000. So the $11,000 figure is old information that used to be a part of the boilerplate in our press releases when court order violations were announced.”

Meanwhile, FTC assistant director Richard Cleland tells PRNewser that even the $16,000 number doesn’t apply. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s $16,000 or $11,000. The root problem here is that reports that there is a monetary penalty for violating these guidelines is untrue. The FTC does not have the authority to impose a fine for a violation to the FTC act,” says Cleland who heads the FTC’s division of advertising practices. “There is a provision that allows for a proceeding in federal court that allows for imposing of a monetary penalty for violation of trade regulation laws. The guidelines are not trade regulation laws.”

Cleland also said the blogger or endorser would not be fined, but the advertiser would. “We have never brought a case against a consumer endorser and we’ve never brought a case against somebody simply for failure to disclose a material connection,” he said. “Where we have brought cases, there are other issues involved, not only failing to disclose a material connection but also making other misrepresentations about a product, a serious product like a health product or something like that. We have brought those cases but not against the consumer endorser, we have brought those cases against the advertiser that was behind it. If people think that the FTC is going to issue them a citation for $11,000 because they failed to disclose that they got a free box of Pampers, that’s not true. That’s not going to happen today, not ever.”