Why do creators have to deal with FTC guidelines? Seems like a needless chore doesn’t it?
While extra rules can feel onerous and time-consuming, the underlying reason that the FTC (or Federal Trade Commission) makes any rules regarding influencer marketing is ultimately with the goal of protecting consumers.
And as brands and creators that are also consumers, we believe that this frankly should be our goal too.
We’re consumers and we don’t like it when someone uses slimy marketing tactics with us or even worse might use some shady tactics to trick an older relative into purchasing something.
So, while extra red tape can be a headache, it’s good to put on your consumer hat and think about what sort of experience you’d prefer.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF THE FTC?
Before we get started, let’s talk about who the FTC is and why they exist.
Simply put, the goal of the FTC is to protect consumers from deception and unfair methods of competition.
This basically means they want to make sure that the public is not being lied to by companies in order to get them to purchase a product.
BUT WHAT DO THESE GUIDELINES MEAN FOR BRANDS AND INFLUENCERS?
Much of the FTC guidelines around influencer marketing surrounds properly disclosing when an endorsement or sponsorship is occurring for material connection.
When we use the term endorsing, we mean that an influencer is sharing a product in a way that the audience interprets as communicating something about the product.
When we use the term material connection, we mean any relationship with a brand that would impact the audience's perception of the endorsement (ie. receiving a product for free, being related to the owner, etc.)
When it comes to YouTube or other video platforms, disclosures need to be included within videos (preferably at the beginning and again during the product mention) and may not be solely listed within the description box.
When you’re working on Instagram or Twitter, the safest option is to place #Ad where it is easily seen and readable. You can’t place #ad in the middle of a line of other hashtags. Your best option is to place it ‘above the fold’ within a caption on Instagram and as the first hashtag if you’re on Twitter.
In any media that has both sound and text (i.e. a YouTube video with a description box or an Instagram video post) both the video and the description need to contain a disclosure sharing the relationship between the influencer and brand.
Some examples of acceptable disclosures include:
Thanks to X for sponsoring today’s video.
X sent me some free product to try out
Check out X website here #paidad
Sponsored by X
On a space limited platform like Twitter, the terms ‘BrandNamePartner’ or ‘BrandNameAmbassador’ (where BrandName is the sponsoring brands name) are also acceptable options.
Can you use vague or abbreviated versions of sponsored?
According to the FTC, you should not use vague or confusing terms like ‘sp’, ‘spon’ or ‘collab’ or standalone terms like ‘thanks’ or ‘ambassador’ and stay away from other abbreviations and shorthand whenever possible.
BUT ARE CREATORS LIMITED ABOUT WHAT THEY CAN SAY ABOUT THE PRODUCT?
Yes and no.
At a minimum, a creator must be honest when expressing their experience with the product. If they haven’t tried the product, they can’t talk as if they have.
I know, I know, this seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised with what folks will advocate for without actually having used it.
At the end of the day, falsely advocating for something you haven't tried isn’t just a bad idea for the creators reputation with their audience, it’s also problematic from a legal point of view as well.
EXAMPLES OF INTEGRATIONS WITH COMPLIANT DISCLOSURES
SO WHAT HAPPENS IF I VIOLATE THESE FTC GUIDELINES?
The FTC can see civil penalties of up to $46,517 per violation. It’s important to note that both brands and creators need to be vigilant here (or in our case, our agency). When a violation occurs, the onus is on the sponsor to catch it. They will be the ones held liable if there is a violation.
5 KEY TAKEAWAYS
The Federal Trade Commission’s goal is to protect consumers from deception and unfair methods of competition. As the internet grows, boundaries and regulations will work to ensure authenticity in the content you’re consuming and/or producing. If you follow the FTC’s comprehensive yet simple rules, you’ll stay out of trouble when it comes to influencer.
Always disclose — For brands and creators alike, it is necessary to disclose partnerships, no matter what. In any individual partnership it is up to you to choose the style of the disclosure, but it must happen. As long as a reasonable person can walk away from your content and understand that it was paid for, you’re in the clear.
Be honest — Make sure your words in the disclosure and in the general promotion of the product are honest. If you’re sharing details about the partnership, for example, whether or not you were sent free product, that information must be completely true.
Be clear — Even if you’re not interested in explaining the ins and outs of the partnership within the content, make sure you’re adding a clear #ad for text fields and a verbal callout in your videos to keep yourself safe in the eyes of the FTC.
Lastly — Creators, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! Know what you’re required to do and what you aren’t when it comes to brand deals. Don’t let brands say you have a legal requirement to do or say something that you don’t — so get familiar with your rights. If you need help weeding through this issue for a particular brand deal, we’re just an email away!
Remember, as long as a reasonable person walks away from your sponsored content understanding that it was paid for and a partnership was made, you are following the rules.
For questions, comments, or concerns about FTC Endorsement Guidelines, give us a shout! We’re always here.