FTC Reveals New Disclosure Guidelines for Influencers

And they are actually very useful!

Do you work with influencers to recommend or promote your products?

If so, you should be fulfilling certain obligations.

Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US released its no-nonsense guidelines for anyone who works with brands to promote products. Just like the ACCC role here, the FTC’s role is to prevent deceptive ads.

A word of warning – disclosure language is currently under review in Australia. And it looks likely that regulations will be enforced. In the U.S the FTC has been fining both influencers and brands for not disclosing partnerships or sponsored posts.

As we monitor what is happening in the Australian landscape, it is well worth familiarising yourself with discussions in other parts of the world.

The FTC’s creator-friendly guidelines go into detail about how to disclose, but most useful is their clear explanation of what is considered a gain in any kind of material way.

A “material connection” to the brand includes a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship – such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services.

Disclose when you have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand. Financial relationships aren’t limited to money. Disclose the relationship if you got anything of value to mention a product.

If a brand gives you free or discounted products or other perks and then you mention one of its products, make a disclosure even if you weren’t asked to mention that product.

This is an area which, to date, has been too ambiguous in my opinion.

Other advice on disclosure includes the importance of placing the acknowledgment where it is hard to miss. Not hiding in a bunch of hashtags or links. This should be done even when they feel their endorsement is unbiased.

New suggestions you may not be as familiar with include making a disclosure visible within video content, not just mentioned in the description.

The equivalent for IG Stories is to superimpose the disclosure over the picture and make sure viewers have enough time to notice and read it.

They encourage simple explanations such as “Thanks to brand for the free product”, clearly evident in the caption. Terms like “advertisement,” “ad,” and “sponsored.” One key difference when it comes to disclosing is the use of hashtags. In Australia, to date, we have used the likes of #ad #sponsored but this looks to be changing. It seems hashtags will no longer be a necessary addition where the partnership is disclosed in plain language.

If making an endorsement in a live stream, the disclosure should be repeated periodically so viewers who only see part of the stream will get the disclosure.

Influencers are reminded to not use vague or confusing terms like “sp,” “spon,” or “collab”. But we do still see this happening, even on our own drafts that come through for our own projects, and you do need to be on the watch out.

A more recent approach in Australia is to include #Ad or #Sponsored at the very beginning of all posts before the caption starts. It’s not sufficient to have #Ad in the hashtag listings or towards the end of the copy. If it is an Instagram Story post then it still needs to show #ad on each frame.

It’s an influencer’s responsibility to make sure they disclosure. But also, as brands, it’s important that you don’t rely on them. We include a standard posting-mandatories section in our briefs and influencer agreements. So, there is no getting around it.

One criticism of the guidelines is that they haven’t provided a recommendation on the paid partnership function on both Facebook & Instagram. Using the paid partnership function on Facebook & Instagram is critical. Even when the products are gifted. Using #partner will attract a check by the platforms and your post analytics access for that post will be blocked.

 

Despite this, the guidelines are definitely worth your short time (2 mins) to read and the language explaining these guidelines is as clear and as simple as disclosing these relationships should be. You can download the influencer disclosure guidelines here.

Written by  – Natalie Giddings