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FTC investigations have begun

Ann Taylor stores are the first major brand to get a warning from the FTC under the new disclosure guidelines, and I’m sure more are coming. Read more from MediaPost.

If you haven’t prepared your disclosure policy, you’re already too late. Use the Social Media Business Council’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit to create yours. Watch this video to understand how to stay out of trouble.

Wendy Davis, who wrote the MediaPost article, asks “why gifts to bloggers should be treated differently than gifts to writers for mainstream media outlets.” Here are your answers:

  1. They aren’t. Reporters ARE required by law to disclose gifts.
  2. Just because mainstream media has lowered its ethics standards, doesn’t mean the laws still don’t apply to them and bloggers. Reporters used to get fired for this sort of thing, now they use it to justify why everyone should be allowed to take payola.
  3. The rule is that any relationship that may confuse the consumer as to the relationship between the writer and the marketer must be clearly disclosed.
  4. Social media has a higher obligation to disclose, because your friends assume you aren’t secretly working with corporations when they read your Facebook page.

Section 5 of the FTC Act requires the disclosure of a material connection between an advertiser and an endorser when such a relationship is not otherwise apparent from the context of the communication that contains the endorsement. Depending on the circumstances, an advertiser’s provision of a gift to a blogger for posting blog content about an event could constitute a material connection that is not reasonably expected by readers of the blog.

Here’s another warning: Get your legal advice from lawyers, not reporters or bloggers. I sincerely hope you don’t read this kind of article and think “Yeah, that random trade magazine report is right. Screw the law!” Don’t let your favorite reporter or blogger convince you that this doesn’t matter, unless they are policy experts. It matters because it’s the law.

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