What Influencers Need To Know About The Latest FTC Warning

Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent letters to over 90 Instagram influencers, reminding them that they should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media.

This is the first time the FTC has directly reached out to the influencers themselves.

In 2015, Lord & Taylor settled charges laid against them by the FTC, after they deceived customers protected under the new native advertising guidelines. And in 2016 Warner Brothers was charged by the FTC for failing to tell consumers, “clearly and conspicuously”, that the social media content influencers had published was sponsored by WB.

What’s the big deal?

On the FTC website they have an entire section dedicated to the Endorsement Guides, which includes information about disclosing connections between advertisers and endorsers. Under a frequently asked question (“Are you monitoring bloggers?”), the FTC explains who will face consequences if the rules aren’t followed:

“Generally not, but if concerns about possible violations of the FTC Act come to our attention, we’ll evaluate them case by case. If law enforcement becomes necessary, our focus usually will be on advertisers or their ad agencies and public relations firms. Action against an individual endorser, however, might be appropriate in certain circumstances.”
The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking

So why is it a big deal that the FTC is now contacting influencers directly?

The FTC wants marketers and influencers to know that they are subject to the same Endorsement Guides, and specifically that influencers are not exempt from the repercussions.

How can I ensure that I follow the FTC rules?

If you’re unsure about how to disclose your role in a campaign it’s best to reach out to your campaign manager who can help you stick to the proper conventions. In the meantime, here’s some helpful tips from following the FTC’s updates over the years:

Key Takeaways

There’s no set way to disclose an endorsement

You still have creative freedom to create the disclosure in your own way – simply ensure that you’re following some of the basics rules outlined below. Here’s a couple of good examples of appropriate disclosures:

“Company X gave me this product to try . . . .”

“I was sent Product Y and received additional compensation from Company Z.”

Disclosures should not be vague 

Abbreviating “sponsored post” to “#sp,” or simply saying “Thanks *brand*” is not enough to pass the FTC laws. Burying a disclosure amongst other content, including mass hashtags on Instagram is also discouraged.

Videos need to include the disclosure

Writing a disclosure in the description of a video is not enough because many viewers don’t read it. The disclosure has the most chance of being effective if it is made clearly and prominently in the video itself. That’s not to say that you couldn’t have disclosures in both the video and the description.

Disclosures should be clear and conspicuous

This is how the FTC wants you to interpret “clear and conspicuous”:

  1. close to the claims to which they relate;
  2. in a font that is easy to read;
  3. in a shade that stands out against the background;
  4. for video ads, on the screen long enough to be noticed, read, and understood;
  5. for audio disclosures, read at a cadence that is easy for consumers to follow and in words consumers will understand.

Use the same language to disclose as you’re using in your content

If your endorsement, and content is in Spanish, put your disclosure in Spanish. Likewise, if the content is in English, put your disclosure in English.

During a live video make sure your disclosure is visible at all times

Your audience will join and leave at various times throughout a live video so it’s important to ensure that they are aware of the circumstances of your content at any time. Place a continuous, clear and conspicuous disclosure throughout the entire stream.

Twitter disclosures are a little different

The 140 character limit makes disclosures a little difficult on the Twitter platform. The FTC understands this and suggests you convey the disclosure at the beginning of a post with one of the following:

  1. “#Ad”
  2. “#Sponsored”
  3.  The words Sponsored or Ad (without hashtags)
  4. An Affiliate link
  5. A Sponsored link