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Annotation of FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising
By Arielle Weg
-These are FTC guidelines for endorsement of products online where products are provided as an advertisement. The guidelines are set to protect the consumers, and are subject to be reconsidered on a case-by-case basis.
-An endorsement is defined as “any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a part other than the sponsoring advertiser, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or institution.” (this comes directly from the linked guidelines) This definition is necessary to help identify what is deemed an endorsement as opposed to mentioning a product or service. Despite this clarity, there is still some discrepancy as to what actual defines an advertising message.
-Eight Examples are used to in the first section to discuss what is considered an advertising message. The 8th example is a perfect scenario for this topic. The example depicts a woman who tries a new dog food brand and writes about it positively on her blog. If she bought it on her own time it is not advertising, if she was sent a free bag due to the company tracking her purchases it is not advertising, if she joins a network marketing program and receives the dog food through that it is considered advertising and endorsement.
-The next section discusses specific rules of what the endorsement can be. The endorsement must be an honest reflection of the experience, as well as coming directly from the blogger. Additional rules clarify that the endorser is an actual, present user of the product they are endorsing. Advertises may only use the endorsement to their advantage if the endorser falls into that category.
-In example five of th second section, the company is liable for any claims the blogger makes (even if they do not tell them the claim), and the blogger is liable if they do not disclose they are paid for their review. It is up to the advertiser to monitor bloggers and to ensure they are speaking truthfully about their products.
-If a result of an endorser is atypical of a product, the advertiser must disclose that the information is atypical for the situation. Whatever the endorser conveys to the audience must represent the reaction of the general population, or be specified that it is an unusual or special case.
-If an endorsement indicates the endorser has some professional experience with the field related to the product, they must have relevant professional experience. If a blogger claims they are a doctor and can endorse a weight loss program, they must be a medical doctor with some knowledge of the topic. They cannot have a PhD in an unrelated field, or this would be considered deceptive.
-Any connections between the advertiser and the endorser must be fully disclosed. If a connection is created after the endorsement, this does not need to be disclosed (payment after making positive comments without knowledge this could happen)
-The final example seven explains that a blogger who receives free items (without asking for a review) should disclose the relationship to the company and that the item was free if they choose to review it. The company should inform the blogger of this standard expectation.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION. Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Ftc.gov. Federal Trade Commission,Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
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