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Let’s Be Perfectly Clear About Transparency

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission updated its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (Guides). These updates are by far the most radical changes made in 30 years. The Guides are just what consumers need to help them find truth in the plethora of information they are bombarded with on a daily basis.

Robert Urback of Davis & Gilbert LLC, a legal firm specializing in advertising, marketing and promotion issues, feels the new guidelines will affect the advertising and public relations industry’s use of endorsements and testimonials. Some of the key points he outlines from the new FTC Guide are:

  • Use of “results not typical” or “results may vary” statements will require substantiation
  • Bloggers will need to disclose if they have been compensated or provided free goods or services for their endorsement
  • Social media posts will require relationship disclosures
  • Celebrity endorsers must disclose their relationship with the advertiser if it’s not readily apparent to the audience
  • Disclosure is required when sponsoring clinical trials

The FTC makes it clear that both the endorser and the advertiser will be liable for false and unsubstantiated claims. Consumers will now know if they are being fed a fish tale. It’s about time.

These changes will have little to no effect on agencies or corporate public relations practitioners who follow general ethical guidelines such as PRSA’s Code of Ethics, the guiding document at Marketing Matters. For others, being forced to become transparent will clearly change their game.