Endorsement Disclosure Guidelines & CAC Social Media

At the end of this module you will understand that:  FTC guidelines require influencers and endorsers with a “material connection” to a brand/product to disclose that relationship when they communicate about the brand/product; disclosures must be unambiguous, clear and conspicuous; and CAC is ultimately responsible for what others say and do on our behalf, and therefore must educate them and require they follow FTC guidelines.

At the end of this module you will understand the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for influencers and endorsers with a “material connection” to a brand/product.

Overview

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising that govern the requirements for endorsements and disclosure of a “material connection between an endorser and an advertiser.” The guidelines, at their core, reflect the basic truth-in-advertising principle that endorsements must be honest and not misleading. This module is designed to help you understand what, when and how disclosures must be communicated when a CAC partner fits into the “material connection” category.

See the FTC Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising and the Endorsement Guides for more information.

In this module, you will learn:

  • FTC guidelines require influencers and endorsers with a “material connection” to a brand/product to disclose that relationship when they communicate about the brand/product
  • Disclosures must be unambiguous, clear and conspicuous
  • CAC is ultimately responsible for what others say and do on our behalf, and therefore must educate them and require they follow FTC guidelines

 

Notification of FTC Oversight, Review of Social Media Content & Notice of Non-Compliance

After reviewing numerous Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes and other influencers, Federal Trade Commission staff recently sent out more than 90 letters reminding influencers and marketers that influencers should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships with brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media.” Moreover, they need to understand that the FTC endorsement guidelines apply to both marketers and endorsers.

[Excerpt from the FTC guidelines]

Suppose you meet someone who tells you about a great new product. She tells you it performs wonderfully and offers fantastic new features that nobody else has. Would that recommendation factor into your decision to buy the product? Probably.

Now suppose the person works for the company that sells the product – or has been paid by the company to tout the product. Would you want to know that when you’re evaluating the endorser’s glowing recommendation? You bet. That common-sense premise is at the heart of the guidelines Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

In addition, the guidelines say if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.

General Guidelines to be Followed:

  • According to the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, if there is a material connection between an endorser and an advertiser, that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed unless it’s already clear from the context of the communication. “Material connection” is a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – like a business or family relationship, a payment or the gift of a free product
  • The legal responsibility for disclosing the relationship between an influencer and a brand is a two-way street. Influencers should clearly let people know about that connection and marketers have an obligation to make sure they do – usually by educating their influencers and monitoring what the influencers are doing on their behalf
  • Disclosures placed at the end of a long post are not acceptable
  • Disclosures as part of a list of multiple tags, hashtags or links where readers may just skip over them, especially when they appear at the end of a long post, are not acceptable

Bloggers, RDN Ambassadors, Third Party Program Participants, and All Other Influencers:

  • Keep your disclosures unambiguous 
    Vague terms like “Thank you,” “#partner” and “#sp” aren’t likely to explain to people the nature of the relationship between an influencer and the brand. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to make that disclosure, but an unfamiliar abbreviation or cryptic word subject to multiple interpretations won’t do the trick. Approach the issue by asking yourself, in the context of this post, how can I make the connection clear?
  • Make your disclosures hard to miss 
    In addition to what you say, consider where you say it and how it will look to consumers on the devices they’re using. People should be able to spot the disclosure easily. But if they check their Instagram stream on a mobile device, they typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click “more.” And let’s face it: Many people don’t click “more.” Therefore, disclose any material connection above the “more” button
  • Avoid #HardtoRead #BuriedDisclosures #inStringofHashtags #SkippedByReaders  
  • To make a disclosure “clear and conspicuous,” advertisers should use clear and unambiguous language and make the disclosure stand out. Consumers should be able to notice the disclosure easily. They should not have to look for it.
  • In general, disclosures should be:
    • Close to the claims to which they relate
    • In a font that is easy to read
    • In a shade that stands out against the background
    • For video ads, on the screen long enough to be noticed, read, and understood
    • For audio disclosures, read at a cadence that is easy for consumers to follow and in words consumers will understand

Social Media Contests:

It is not enough to include the contest hashtag in the contest post because many readers would not understand such a hashtag to mean that the people doing the posting had received something of value (in this case, a chance to win the contest prize). Making the word “contest” or “sweepstakes” part of the hashtag should be enough. However, the word “sweeps” probably isn’t.

California Avocado Commission (CAC) Agency Requirements:

An ad agency (or any company for that matter) should not ask employees to say anything that isn’t true. No one should endorse a product they haven’t used or say things they don’t believe, and an employer certainly shouldn’t encourage employees to do that.

Moreover, employees of an ad, marketing or public relations firm that have a connection to the advertiser, should disclose the relationship in all social media posts. Agencies asking their employees to spread the word must instruct those employees about their responsibilities to disclose their relationship.

CAC Requirements:

Advertisers need to have reasonable programs in place to train and monitor members of their network. The scope of the program depends on the risk that deceptive practices by network participants could cause consumer harm – either physical injury or financial loss. For example, a network devoted to the sale of health products may require more supervision than a network promoting, say, a new fashion line.

Here are some elements every program should include:

  1. Given an advertiser’s responsibility for substantiating objective product claims, explain to members of your network what they can (and can’t) say about the products – for example, a list of the health claims they can make for your products
  2. Instruct members of the network on their responsibilities for disclosing their connections to you
  3. Periodically search for what your people are saying
  4. Follow up if you find questionable practices

It’s unrealistic to expect you to be aware of every single statement made by a member of your network. But it’s up to you to make a reasonable effort to know what participants in your network are saying.

CAC is ultimately responsible for what others do on our behalf. CAC will make sure agencies working on our behalf have an appropriate program in place to train and monitor members of our social media network. Ask for regular reports confirming that the program is operating properly and monitor the network periodically. Delegating part of your promotional program to an outside entity doesn’t relieve you of responsibility under the FTC Act.

CAC Employees:

CAC will remind employees periodically of the FTC Endorsement Guidelines. When CAC learns that an employee has posted a review on the company’s website or a social media site without adequately disclosing his or her relationship with the company, the Commission will remind the employee of our company policy and ask them to remove that review or adequately disclose that they’re an employee.

CAC employees, must make sure they are complying with the policies before using any form of social media to talk about California Avocados.

If CAC allows employees to use their personal social media to talk about California Avocados, the relationship must be disclosed to people who read the online postings about the Commission or the fruit. Listing CAC as your employer on your profile page isn’t enough.

Do the Federal Trade Commission Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising apply to CAC, its staff and agency employees?

  • Yes
  • No

Does the disclosure apply to speaking engagements only?

  • Yes, the disclosure applies only to speaking engagements
  • No, the disclosure applies to speaking engagements, media appearances, social media posts, bloggers, educators; all influencers

Can I put my disclosure at the end of my blog post/social media post?

  • Yes, as long as the disclosure is included in the post
  • No. If you are speaking, the disclosure must be in the beginning of your speech. If it is written format, the disclosure should be in close proximity to the related claim

Are bloggers considered influencers?

  • Yes, bloggers generally have an area of expertise that they speak/blog about and consumers who visit and/or subscribe to their blog take their recommendations and testimonials to heart; thus they are influencers
  • No, bloggers do not need to follow the CAC disclosure policy

We don’t have to include a disclosure in a tweet. True or False.

  • True, disclosures on social media are not necessary
  • False. No matter the advertising method used, if the individual making the statement has a “material connection,” they must make the disclosure

As an agency staff member who has come to love California Avocados, when I talk about California Avocados on my social media channels, that is my personal opinion so I don’t have to disclose that I work for CAC, right? True or False

  • True. Because that is your personal opinion being expressed on your personal account, a disclosure is not necessary
  • False. Because you have a “material connection” you must make the disclosure

If I am on my personal Facebook page, see a CAC Facebook post and someone says something derogatory, can I respond on behalf of CAC?

  • Yes. You are authorized to respond to the person on our behalf from your personal account, noting your affiliation with the Commission as outlined in the disclosure policy
  • No. Notify CAC. The only person approved to speak on behalf of CAC is Zachary Benedict, CAC’s Online Marketing Director. The exceptions to this is when there is a pre-planned event and Zac provides individuals with temporary credentials to post and respond on a given subject for a given period of time

Whose responsibility is it to make sure disclosures are made? (Check all that apply)

  • CAC spokespersons
  • CAC Registered Dietitian Ambassadors
  • CAC Bloggers
  • Bloggers to whom we provide California Avocados
  • Events where we provide California Avocados
  • California Avocado researchers
  • CAC staff

Contact Information:

If you have any questions, please contact Angela Fraser at [email protected] or 949-341-1955, x106.