In October of this year, the FTC released guidelines for advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act. This has raised much controversy; espcially in the realm of bloggers.
Under the new guidelines, it is the job of bloggers to disclose their connection with an advertiser and whether they are being paid to endorse a product. Questions have been raised since the release of the guidelines on whether this takes away from the credibility of a blogger's product recommendation and possibly even diminish the value of blog marketing.
The new guidelines specifically address advertisements that feature a consumer and convey their experience with a product or service as typical, when that is not the case, will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. This is different than the 1980s version, which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial, as long as they included a disclaimer such as "results not typical." The revised version no longer allows this disclaimer to be sufficient.
Whose Responsibility Is It to Disclose?
The obligation to disclose the connection between a blogger and an advertiser rests "primarily" on the blogger, but is also shared by the advertiser.
The determination of whether a blog post is deemed an "endorsement" depends on a variety of factors. This means that each will be determined on a case-by-case analysis, leaving both the advertiser and the blogger subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made in the course of the blogger endorsement. A blogger is now also liable if they fail to clearly disclose that they are being paid for their endorsement or review.
Your Turn: What are your thoughts regarding these new guidelines? Will it make bloggers more credible or will it hurt advertisers when it comes to the disclosure? What will this do to word of mouth marketing?