The new FTC Guide goes in to effect today and we want to make provide a quick recap for our advertisers and a bloggers.
The FTC’s Position
- A material connection exists whenever a company provides any incentive (product, coupon, trip, special discount, cash) to a specific person in exchange for a recommendation, regardless of how that recommendation is presented (post, video, podcast, tweet, verbal, etc.).
- Material relationships must be disclosed to the reader.
- Claims made by the blogger, tweeter, etc. must be accurate and represent typical results.
All IZEA platforms have built-in disclosure requirements and tools. However, it remains your responsibility to be sure that disclosure is being done in a manner that you are comfortable with. The FTC has not specified what constitutes full disclosure, so there is some degree of interpretation. They do state that it should be clear and conspicuous.
All IZEA tools provide monitoring mechanisms that allow you to see each post completed by a creator in real time. It is your responsibility to actively process each post and make sure that the claims are accurate and represent typical use. If a post fails to meet your requirements it is up to you to flag, request changes or deny payment to the creator.
Any straight text link campaigns on blogs (which means no reviews, testimonials or surrounding text about the product, service or company) should be accompanied by a site wide disclosure policy at minimum.
Sponsored Blog Posts
We believe that disclosure within blog posts should be done within the post itself. Sponzai and SocialSpark have standardized “copy and paste” disclosures required before the opportunity can be submitted. PayPerPost allows advertisers and bloggers to customize the in-post disclosure and advertisers must manually approve them. We highly recommend the fully-automated “Sandwich Disclosure” standard we have implemented in SocialSpark. This is the only solution of its kind and features a software-based Disclosure Audit.
The FTC recognizes that disclosure within Twitter is more problematic. While the natural response is that the use of a hashtag is the the most viable solution, the FTC is concerned that the general public will not understand what this means. At this time, it appears as though #ad and #sponsored are acceptable disclosures. It also appears as though a contextual reference such as “My sponsor…” “My Advertiser…” “Brought to you by.”
SponsoredTweets.com conforms to these standards and requires tweeters to utilize our disclosure engine.
In terms of a podcast, the disclosure needs to be within the audio stream, and should occur immediately preceding the portion of sponsored content. This verbal disclosure should follow the same form as the blog disclosure and should be clear and conspicuous to the general public.
In video (photographs could also be included here), the disclosure is ideally placed within the video content. However, recognizing there can be challenges with this, especially when a third party has created the content, the FTC believes that disclosure within the description of the content (everyplace the video appears) will be acceptable.
IZEA does not currently have any audio/video specific platforms. However, if you do require people to create video or photo content as part of a SocialSpark opp please make sure to provide additional disclosure guidance.
IZEA has built disclosure tools into all of our platforms. Make sure that you follow the disclosure requirements for each Opp and always err on the side of transparency. The FTC can come after you as an individual if they feel you are being deceptive. Don’t risk it. If you are a blogger we highly suggest that you adopt a disclosure policy in addition to any in-post disclosure that you are required to do.
You should also be wary of sharing any claims that may not be typical for all users. You can share your feelings, but stay away from statements like “I lost 100 pounds” or “I made $10k”, even if they are true.
We are working on some additional education and monitoring tools for our network. In the meantime if you should have any questions please feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org