Back in August of 2016, the Federal Trade Commission announced it would get tougher on its regulation of disclosure of paid endorsements—commonly referred to as influencer marketing—stating users need to be clearer when they’re getting paid to promote something and that hashtags are not always enough to identify posts as ads.
Not a lot of influencers or marketers listened to the message, so eight short months later the FTC responded by sending more than 90 letters “reminding influencers and marketers that influencers should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing product through social media.”
After the disastrous Fyre Festival in late April, where Kylie Jenner blindly promoted the luxury event weekend for a reported $250,000 without posting as an advertisement, the FTC is likely to begin fining marketers who fail to disclose ads properly.The best resource for information about disclosing connections between advertisers and endorsers can be found
The best resource for information about disclosing connections between advertisers and endorsers can be found on the FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking.
To save you the time of reading every hypothetical, we pulled a few questions and answers that will help you navigate best practices for endorsements:
Question: A famous athlete has thousands of followers on Twitter and is well-known as a spokesperson for a particular product. Does he have to disclose that he’s being paid every time he tweets about the product?
Answer: It depends on whether his followers understand that he’s being paid to endorse that product. If they know he’s a paid endorser, then no disclosure is needed. But if a significant portion of his followers don’t know that, the relationship should be disclosed. Determining whether followers are aware of a relationship could be tricky in many cases, so we recommend disclosure.
Question: What if I return the product after I review it? Should I still make a disclosure?
Answer: That might depend on the product and how long you are allowed to use it. For example, if you get free use of a car for a month, we recommend a disclosure even though you have to return it. But even for less valuable products, it’s best to be open and transparent with your readers.
Question: I have a website that reviews local restaurants. It’s clear when a restaurant pays for an ad on my website, but do I have to disclose which restaurants give me free meals?
Answer: If you get free meals, you should let your readers know so they can factor that in when they read your reviews. Some readers might conclude that if a restaurant gave you a free meal because it knew you were going to write a review, you might have gotten special food or service.
Question: How should I disclose that I was given something for my endorsement? Is there special wording I have to use to make the disclosure?
Answer: No. The point is to give readers the essential information. A simple disclosure like “Company X gave me this product to try . . .” will usually be effective.
The FTC will be putting the onus on advertisers, and since the value of influencer marketing has been on the rise, simply excluding this channel isn’t an option. Working with a digital marketing agency like Hawke Media that works with influencers daily is a recommended move to grow your brand. Schedule a free consultation today.