On March 12th, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report updating its mobile and online advertising guidelines. The recently issued report was a follow-up to the year 2000 "Dot Com Disclosures" to address the marked technical and legal changes that have occurred in the past 13 years. The FTC guidelines emphasize that no matter how technology changes the delivery of content, consumer protection laws continue to apply equally "across all mediums, whether delivered on a desktop computer, a mobile device, or more traditional media such as television, radio, or print." The intent of the report is to assist advertisers to better identify when a disclosure is needed in connection with social media ads and how best to ensure that any disclosures are conspicuous and not deceptive. In order to maximize its usefulness, the report used more than 20 mock ads to illustrate the updated principles.
The FTC report advises that advertisers should ensure that clear and conspicuous disclosures are made on all devices and platforms that an advertisement can be accessed on and if the disclosure cannot be made clearly and conspicuously on a particular device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used. Not only does the new report take into account the space limitations inherent in certain social media sites, like Twitter, but also the growing user viewing habits of content make available on small screen smartphones. "The new guidance points out that advertisers using space-constrained ads, such as on some social media platforms, must still provide disclosures necessary to prevent an ad from being deceptive, and it advises marketers to avoid conveying such disclosures through pop-ups, because they are often blocked," the FTC said. In order to accomplish this in a better form the report suggests that an advertiser can include "Ad" or "Sponsored" before the message itself. Additionally, the report admonished advertisers to consider whether a consumer will be able to view any disclaimers if it is required to "zoom-in" to read any part of the ad. However, the new report is slightly more flexible when dealing with smaller screens by, allowing advertisers to make sure disclosures are "as close as possible" to the ad claim instead of the original guidelines which discussed having disclaimers "near or on the same page" as the advertisement.
If you have any questions about the new FTC guidelines and how they may affect your business Pillsbury would be happy to speak with you about them.