Most recently, the FTC has been cracking down on their advertising laws, particularly in relation to Internet advertising and blogging. I have a feeling that most of these new laws have come as a result of the myriad of high converting less than truthful affiliate ads which can be found all over the net (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, just search Google for “acai berry diet”).
These new guidelines have a significant impact on anyone who uses the Internet to promote a product or service, particularly bloggers and those who use any sort of amazing claim or testimonial in their promotional materials. If you (or a friend you know, *wink* *wink*) are utilizing landing pages with any sort of claim to the effectiveness of what you’re promoting, it’s important that you read the following new guidelines very closely.
Overall Impression Counts
Although so vague as to be almost useless, the new FTC rules state that regulators’ overall impression of an advertisement and offer is heavily weighted. In other words, if an offer looks spammy, it probably is and the FTC can act on it. I take this to really mean that an advertisement promoting a shady rebill offer, or an ad claiming that a grade-school dropout bum found the “secret of the Internet” and now makes $4,598 per day sitting on his couch in his underwear is going to be scrutinized way more closely than an ad promoting a local carpet cleaning company.
New Rules On Fine Print
Basically, you can no longer say whatever you want in your ad as long as you put a “results not typical” phrase in the fine print. This is utilized regularly not just on the Internet, but on many television commercials as well (I still have a hard time buying into a Taco Bell drive through “diet”). With the new guidelines, advertisers must state the typical results one can expect in their advertisements. So instead of saying “Jennifer lost 45 lbs in one month while still eating whatever she wants,” you’ll now have to say “James gained only 7 lbs while on our diet when he would have most likely gained 25 lbs otherwise we think.”
Note, however, that the FTC left a small loophole in this rule. According to the guidelines, you can still state the outlandish results as long as you narrow the segment that the results apply to so that they, in fact, are typical for that segment. For example, you could say “Jennifer, weighing almost a ton, lost 45 lbs in one month while still eating whatever she wants because she could only go downhill from there.”
Disclosure of Connection With Endorsed Products
This most likely resulted from popular bloggers and social media influencers that pushed various products because companies paid them or offered them free gifts. While it makes sense that popular bloggers would want to accept such gifts and capitalize on their hard earned fame, the FTC found that this was just too sneaky.
If you want to promote a product online, and are doing it in a way that’s not an obvious ad (like a banner ad or text ad), then you now must disclose your relationship with the company you are endorsing. Moreover, this should not be in fine print, it must be stated clearly in the context of the promotional avenue. For example, if you’re writing a blog post and are reviewing a product, you have to disclose if you’re being paid, in any way, by the company within the actual body copy of the post (by the way, the FTC is not related to Reputation Watch in any way and we are not being paid to write this post).
I think, however, that this is really not that big of a deal. Saying “XYZ company sent me this gift, so I decided to review their product” will not ruin your blog post, but might actually make it convert better as your readers will actually trust what you’re saying. Transparency actually helps make sales online.
Really, nobody should be surprised by the new FTC guidelines because they’re a long time coming. Consumers are moving online for their purchases and product research, and thus it’s natural that the FTC and other major online companies want to ensure that consumers continue to feel safe online. If you are an online advertiser or affiliate marketer that isn’t shady and indeed provides real value, these rules will actually help you as the other less ethical advertisers begins to take their game someplace else.
What do you all think? Are these rules helpful overall?