All Your Marketing Belongs to Us

ftc_advertising_guidelinesThe new FTC ‘guidelines’ aren’t about consumer protection.


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 50
pounds in 6 months with WeightAway,” the ad is likely to convey that her experience is
representative of what consumers will generally achieve.  Therefore, if consumers cannot36
generally expect to achieve such results, the ad should clearly and conspicuously disclose what
they can expect to lose in the depicted circumstances (e.g., “most women who use WeightAway
for 6 months lose at least 15 pounds”).  Similarly, if the testimonialist in an ad with those two
pictures simply says, “I lost 50 pounds with WeightAway” without any mention of how long it
took to achieve those results, and WeightAway users generally do not lose 50 pounds, the ad
should disclose what results they do generally achieve (e.g., “most women who use WeightAway
lose 15 pounds”).

Pop Question!

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’.

Final Thoughts:

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?

How to Sell Your Boss (or Clients) on Social Media

This is the best presentation on Social Media buy-in I’ve seen yet.

I don’t typically just repost other people’s content, but in this case, I don’t really have anything else to add.
I think these excellent presentation slides on Social Media ROI speak for themselves.

Here’s the link to Olivier’s actual video presentation on Social Media ROI.

Yahoo Jumps on the Social Wagon

Yahoo, in an attempt to get something to boost it’s dwindling search performance, is now jumping into the open social world by offering up the ability to share your social content (tweets, yelp reviews, rss feeds, etc..) on your Yahoo profile.

With 40 million ACTIVE users in the United States alone- (and we’re waaay behind some other countries…China, India…), there’s good reason for them to climb on board. According to Netpop Research LLC, social networking has grown 93% since 2006. And when you look at the rapid growth rate of the main social networks (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), you realize they’d be crazy not to attempt to join the craze.

While it sounds very familiar to friendfeed, it’ll be interesting to see how well they pull this off. Yahoo does have some very good products (BOSS , Flickr, Yahoo Answers, Site Explorer ), but I’ve never really thought of Yahoo as a place to network or socialize. Maybe that’s going to change.

Hey, at least they’re still trying. You can read more about this on their official blog: Share Updates from other Sites on your Yahoo! Profile | Profiles News

Wal-Mart Vs. the Internet. Guess Who’ll Win.

Wal-Mart really screwed the pooch when they issued a takedown notice to SearchAllDeals.com (a coupon and retail discount search engine) for the posting of their “SUPER SECRET BLACK FRIDAY SPECIALS” – which aren’t scheduled to be released to the public until Nov. 24th, the Monday just before Thanksgiving. Loren Baker has the whole story here.

Why is this a problem? Aren’t they just protecting their proprietary information from their competitors?

Yeah, maybe. But that really misses the big picture.

Don’t you WANT people to hear about what awesome deals you’re going to have on Black Friday, from as many sources as possible? If someone told me that a promotion we were getting ready to release in a week is already being picked up and promoted on a dozen high-traffic websites for FREE, my first reaction would NOT be to pick up the phone and call all those sites or send them letters telling them to remove the promotional offer.  More likely I’d be picking up the phone and bragging about how much business we’re gonna get.

Besides the fact that Wal-Mart probably can’t do anything about it anyway, since you can’t copyright prices, the only thing their lawyers are doing are giving their company some bad press.

That should certainly help out their sales. Not.