What Brands Need To Know About FTC Guidelines

August 18, 2015
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The Importance of FTC Disclosure In Sponsored Social Media Content

At the start of 2015, high-end fashion retailer Lord & Taylor leveraged the audience reach of 50 top fashion Instagram influencers, but also failed to properly disclose the fact that the entire campaign was sponsored. With the growth of influencer marketing and the non-standardization of how to disclose sponsorship and confusion over the FTC guidelines can create incongruities between influencers and the influencer marketing companies that function as intermediaries between brands and influencers. Influencers are often given vague guidance over disclosure or none at all.

As evinced by this specific occurrence, brands need to understand the basics of sponsored disclosure when it comes to social media posts and content. Marketing with celebrities and other social media influencers yields high ROI results, however brands looking do need to adhere to specific sponsored content disclosure guidelines in order to ensure brand compliance.

FTC Guidelines For Sponsored Content Across Social Media

The new guidelines for sponsored blog posts are similar to “advertisement” labels in magazines, which inform consumers of a paid sponsorship that may be construed as editorial content. The same concept is applicable to sponsored blog posts, some key elements to disclosure are:

  • Required disclosures must be clear and conspicuous. Advertisers should consider its placement in the ad and its proximity to the relevant claim.
  • Preferably design advertisements so that “scrolling” is not necessary in order to find a disclosure.
  • Display disclosures before consumers make a decision to buy, before the CTA.
  • Use plain language and syntax so that consumers understand the disclosures.
  • Hyperlinks leading to disclosure should be consistent in style and placed with the right label.

These FTC guidelines ensure that the consumer is aware that the social media influencer has been compensated for featuring the item. Top social influencers have a large amount of adherents who look to them as an unbiased resource for advice. The influencer’s audience holds them to a high degree of trust, and being clear with sponsored social media FTC guidelines helps to avoid the loss of goodwill and negativity to both influencer and sponsoring brand. Influencer marketing is a powerful medium and can connect brands to a unique and targeted audience. In keeping industry best practices set forth by the FTC guidelines and working with established, reputable influencer marketing companies, brands can avoid unnecessary backlash from the government and prevent loss of consumer confidence.

For the complete FTC guidelines, please visit FTC’s “Dot com Disclosure” resource. Furthermore, check out their latest dedicated resources for new marketing and endorsements (blogs, YouTube, social media networks). 

Related Post: Advertising Lawyer Weighs In On Fyre Festival’s Legal & FTC Woes

FTC Guideline Disclosure Examples For Instagram, Blogs, & YouTube

The following examples demonstrate proper, best practice FTC guidelines for sponsored social media (Instagram post, blog post, and YouTube video, respectively) prominently featuring “clear and conspicuous” disclosures within close to immediate proximity and plain language.

  • For sponsored Instagram posts, using hashtags such as #sponsored, #spon, #ad, or #paid help consumers distinguish between paid or non-paid posts
  • For sponsored blog posts, including the verbiage “brought to you by,” “sponsored by,” “in partnership with,” or “thanks to” serve to disclose the sponsorship. Additionally, some bloggers chose to categorize or tag their sponsored blog posts as “sponsored” or “collaborations.”
  • For sponsored YouTube videos, calling out the sponsor (whether verbally, visually, or both) within the start of the video and writing a sponsorship statement at the top of the video description serves to properly disclose the sponsorship.

FTC Guidelines Social Media Blog Post ExampleFTC Guidelines Social Media Examples YouTube

Tide’s sponsorship of The Slow Mo Guys. As set forth by the FTC guidelines, note the prominent disclosure both immediately upon video viewing and directly below video publishing date under video description (on YouTube).

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How Brands Market With Top Instagram Influencers