Oct 21

Panel Hosted By Publicity Club of Chicago Examines FTC’s Revised Guidelines

Panel Hosted By Publicity Club of Chicago Examines FTC’s Revised Guidelines

Publicity Club of Chicago panel, discussion on FTC Guide.jpgThere has been a lot of discussion and opinions circling since the release of the FTC’s revised guidelines around endorsements and testimonials in advertising online.

Zócalo Group President/CEO, Paul Rand, provided some initial insights on the topic directly following the FTC’s announcement last week and continued the dialogue at a panel hosted by the Publicity Club of Chicago. Fellow panelists included Esther J. Cepeda, Columnist at Chicago Sun-Times and Self-syndicated columnist of 600 Words; Toure Muhammad, Chief Creative Strategist at Bean Soup Times; and Daliah Saper, Principal Attorney at Saper Law.

The conversation centered around what an endorsement in the online space means – basically anything brands or marketers offer of value to someone who can publish it online – and what marketers and advertisers can do to ensure that the guidelines are upheld. In summary, transparency is key – endorsers should disclose the fact that they are given free products or services. Some interesting perspectives offered by Daliah Saper on the ambiguity around copyright infringement and defamation in the online space were also an important focus of the panel.

From an agency perspective, I found the following key takeaways helpful:

  • In a post, the consumer should be given the information they need to make their own purchase decision. They should be able to say to themselves “I know blogger x got this product from company x, so I will take that into account when considering the product for myself.”
  • As agencies continue to communicate directly with consumers who have the ability to publish content, open communication becomes more important than ever. Encouraging full disclosure becomes imperative as marketers have less control over how their brand message is shared.
  • Disclosure needs to be clear, open and simple. It should be easy to see in the body of the article or post so that there is never any question regarding intent.
  • Marketers have an obligation to guide and train the bloggers they choose to work with – often times, these individuals haven’t had the same level of training a traditional journalist would receive through school, or their employer.
  • Legal departments are taking different approaches to social media. Copyright infringement can be found in everything from a brand name’s hyperlink to a competitors website to a song being played in the background of a YouTube video. It’s important to be aware of a brand’s legal department’s stance on sharing content via social media. 
  • If incorrect or negative information about a brand is shared, or if full-disclosure is not evident, then a marketer or brand has a right to approach the writer, asking for edits or to have the conversation taken offline. It’s easy to overreact when new rules are put in place, but engaging a legal team should continue to be a last resort.

What is your opinion of the new guidelines? Will this change your marketing approach?