They’re about SELECTIVE discrimination by a government authority, and you DEFINITELY shouldn’t expect anything good to come from it.
Before I get into this, let me say that I 100% whole-heartedly agree with WOMMA’s code of ethics, even though I’m not an official member, and I don’t get paid to write about anything for this blog (not that I think there’s anything wrong with that). All thoughts are purely my own, except where I’ve linked to external sites, and I receive no revenue from adsense or other ads on this blog. By the way, fruity pebbles is probably the BEST cereal ever. And nothing tastes better on EGGO waffles than JIF peanut butter. Suck on that FTC.
If the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines went into affect today, this is what would happen:
- affiliate marketing will virtually die.
- if you sell ads on your website, everything you say about everybody and everything will be analyzed – even if no one reads it.
- if you blog about or recommend a product, you’d better make damn sure you have NO association with it – or be able to sufficiently document your substantiation for your claim.
- word of mouth marketing (read:social media) will either be dominated by spam, or suck. probably both.
- you’ll no longer get away with adding = ‘results not typical’ -type disclaimers anymore. Get used to ‘generally-expected-results”.
- testimonials will virtually disappear
- celebrities can be made liable for endorsements, so they’ll simply stop doing them.
- web copy will SUCK – companies will be forced to sell on ‘features’ not ‘benefits’.
- Even with a proper disclaimer, advertisers must have documented PROOF of what consumers can generally expect from their product.
- Advertisers will be required to perform research to KNOW what consumers actually think after reading an ad – regardless of what the ad says.
- Endorsements from Organizations will require ‘collective judgment of the organization.’
- Traditional media reviews are somehow exempt from having to make disclosures for sponsored advertising messages. WTF?!!
- If your company engages in ‘social media participation’ and an employee goes ‘rogue’ – law enforcement action may be considered.
- Promoting your company’s or client’s products in forums without disclosure will be deemed deceptive and possibly warrant law enforcement action.
After reading the actual FTC guideline, it became pretty apparent to me that they couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the problems this causes for the majority of honest, hard-working marketers. Comment after comment from major advertising and marketing associations disputing sections of the guide are summarily rejected throughout the Commission’s guide. (Read pages 22-24 of the guidelines to understand how bad this will be.)
Here’s some particularly BAD guidelines:
Thus, when the ad just features “before” and “after” pictures with the caption “I lost 50pounds in 6 months with WeightAway,” the ad is likely to convey that her experience isrepresentative of what consumers will generally achieve. Therefore, if consumers cannot36generally expect to achieve such results, the ad should clearly and conspicuously disclose whatthey can expect to lose in the depicted circumstances (e.g., “most women who use WeightAwayfor 6 months lose at least 15 pounds”). Similarly, if the testimonialist in an ad with those twopictures simply says, “I lost 50 pounds with WeightAway” without any mention of how long ittook to achieve those results, and WeightAway users generally do not lose 50 pounds, the adshould disclose what results they do generally achieve (e.g., “most women who use WeightAwaylose 15 pounds”).
Can I also say “most women who only lost 15 pounds using WeightAway didn’t follow our recommended program, which included a diet and exercise plan. Those who did lost an average of 50 pounds during that same time period!!” ?
Answer: Nope – diet and exercise is too vague. geesh.
There are SOME things in the new FTC guidelines that do make sense, though.
Expert endorsements – where some weight loss (or similar product) finds a ‘doctor’ (who’s really a veteranarian or something like that) to endorse their product will be regulated by these endorsements as well. No problem, that’s what the FTC is supposed to do.
Disclosure from individuals engaged in blogging or product marketing who receive free products from advertisers. Again, I have no problem here- openess and honesty is the name of the game. Just because someone receives money or products for review doesn’t mean I won’t value their opinion. That’s what review sites are about – oh wait, I forgot that they’ll be disappearing.
Movie commercials that show film critics review excerpts like – “It’ll knock your socks off!” won’t fly anymore if the original review said “It’ll knock your socks off and you’ll vomit all over yourself because this movie is so bad.” It’ll be interesting to see how they handle this – guess it’ll just be ‘thumbs up or down’ or ’4 out of 5 stars’.
All in all, these guidelines are a joke. Endorsements in particular are very confusing – Tiger Woods hitting a Titleist golf ball, but never holds one up or talks about it - is an endorser. Star Jones picks up a bottle of diet coke and says she drinks it because it has fewer calories than regular coke – is not. huh?
Companies that come out with a ‘new and improved version’ or a different formula for a product that’s already been endorsed will be required to contact anyone who endorses their product in an advertisement and make sure that they still agree to the claims they made about their product now that it’s changed. – seriously?!
By the way, what is a NET IMPRESSION CONSUMER?