FTC Guides on Endorsements and Testimonials: What it means in practice

13 October 2009

On 1 December 2009 new guidelines (Guides) from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising come into force in the United States.

The most significant development in this revision is the inclusion of social or consumer-generated media as a form of endorsement. Whilst there is much in the full 81-page Guides (PDF link) that brand owners should review, the following actions are the most pressing when considering any campaign.

  • Review the full Guides available at http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf
  • Review existing and planned endorsements in light of the Guides
  • Ensure that marketing staff and agencies are aware of the Guides and their implications
  • Monitor the activities of consumers who participate in social media marketing campaigns
  • Put in place specific social media guidelines for employees to advise them of their disclosure obligations when participating in online discussion (Hill & Knowlton’s are available here as a model).

Perhaps one of the most frequently missed points is that the FTC Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act. They are not themselves binding in law. Worth remembering.

A full briefing note on the topic is available on the Hill & Knowlton Scribd channel.

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