Last week’s FTC / Deutsch LA settlement was a wake-up call that sent shivers up many a PR spine. Although most of the complaint was about false or misleading claims in advertizements, there were also implications for disclosure on social media channels -what the FTC calls short-form ads.
The complaint included reference to the Deutch LA email to employees asking them to tweet about the new PS Vita with the hashtag #gamechanger. They tweeted on their personal Twitter accounts with no disclosure that they worked for Deutsch or that Play Station was a client.
So while you might think your tweets are part of a PR campaign and not advertising, any tweet that is promotional – for your own brand or a client – is considered a short-form ad by the FTC
Here are some of the tweets that were posted:
One thing can be said about PlayStation Vita…it’s a #gamechanger
PS Vita [ruling] the world. Learn about it! us.playstation.com/psvita/ #GAMECHANGER
“Because these comments were created by employees of Deutsch LA, an advertising agency hired to promote the PS Vita, they are false and misleading. This fact would have been material to consumers in their purchasing decision regarding the PS Vita. The failure to disclose this fact, in light of the representation made, was, and is, a deceptive practice.
Respondent has represented, directly or indirectly, expressly or by implication, that these comments about the PS Vita were independent comments reflecting the views of ordinary consumers who had used the PS Vita.”
Last year, the FTC released revised guidelines that made it clear that marketers have to apply the same standards– including full disclosures– to short-form ads on Twitter as they have to older traditional media.
THE WAKE-UP CALL
This is the first time that the regulatory body has charged any company for deceptive behavior on Twitter and “it’s unlikely to be our last,” said Mary Engle, director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices. (source: Wall Street Journal)
- Read the FTC Guidelines
- Get your team trained on these social media guidelines and how to use social posts appropriately
- It is permissible to have your employees post social comments about a product or service as long as you disclose that they have a relationship with the brand or the agency.
- If you are working with outside influencers and you are rewarding them for their posts in any way, then that fact also has to be made clear. Most bloggers are now aware of the FTC rules and will disclose that they have been given the product to try, so that they can review it. Anything that could affect the potential buyer’s decision must be made crystal clear.
- The FTC suggests that marketers could flag Twitter ads by including “Ad:” (three characters) at the beginning of the post or the word “sponsored” (nine characters). You can also use the hashtag #client
- You have to be conscious of the location of disclosure – it has to be on the exact post, not in another place on your blog or website. Make sure that users can still see the disclosure on a smartphone.
- Be transparent about all promotional social posts, even for your own products. For example if you are promoting a webinar that aims to sell training, any social post should make it clear that it is a promotional post.