The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently approved changes to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with FTC regulations. Anyone involved in online advertising that involves testimonials or reviews, for example paid blog posts, should pay attention to these changes.
Under the old guidelines, an advertiser could feature unusual or atypical results in a testimonial ("I lost 300 pounds eating nothing but bacon bits and Jell-O!) so long as there was some kind of disclaimer in the ad.
Even more important to the online advertising world is that under the new guidelines an advertiser that has to disclose any “material connections” (for example, payments or free products) between endorser and the advertiser. To be more specific, if a blogger takes money or some other kind of consideration to review a product or service, that post would be considered an endorsement.
What Does This Mean for Bloggers and Site Owners?
It isn't clear what this may mean for the average blogger or site owner. If you own a single site or blog, and just have a few paid blog posts, the FTC probably won't even pay attention to you. However, if you have any kind of common sense when it comes to accepting advertising, you'll avoid any advertising that is promoting anything that is illegal, or that appears to be fraudulent or misleading.
When it comes to disclosing whether your site or blog takes advertising, it would probably be a good idea to do so somewhere on the site, or even in an individual blog post. It isn't clear what would be acceptable and what would not be acceptable, since the new guidelines don't go into effect until December.
While the FTC only has jurisdiction in the US, what happens in the US will likely become the norm around the world. If you are involved in online advertising, you should pay attention to any major changes in the US advertising market.
For more details on the changes, check out the FTC's press release from October 5, 2009.traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.