FTC Updates Guidance on Disclosures of Affiliate Links

On May 29, 2015 the Federal Trade Commission issued a new Frequently Asked Questions update to its 2009 Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

One of the key areas they sought to address was the subject of wording or how exactly the disclosures are expected to be phrased to comply with the Guides.

While, similarly to the previous version of the FAQs, this edition states that no special wording is prescribed (and “the point is to give readers the essential information” disclosing that/if you have received a certain product to try it out), when it comes to “endorsements” by affiliate marketers specifically, they clarify that wording like “affiliate link” (see my recent Tweet with one here) may not constitute “an adequate disclosure.” They clarify:

Consumers might not understand that “affiliate link” means that the person placing the link is getting paid for purchases through the link.

In my above-quoted example, one would presume that when it comes to Tweeting a link to a registration page of an affiliate marketing conference, the target audience of the conference would understand (like no one else) what “affiliate links” are and that I would get a compensation should anyone register through my link. However, the FTC has, once again, reemphasized that they expect “clear and conspicuous” disclosures of the relationship.

It is fairly clear what is expected from blogger/webmaster disclosures, but it does get challenging when affiliates operate/market in contexts of limited character-count. On Twitter, in particular, per this new update to the FAQs, “the FTC isn’t mandating the specific wording of disclosures” but expects a clear indicator that/when the statement is “sponsored.” They write:

The words “Sponsored” and “Promotion” use only 9 characters. “Paid ad” only uses 7 characters. Starting a tweet with “Ad:” or “#ad” – which takes only 3 characters – would likely be effective.

For the Federal Trade Commission the underlying principle remains the same “regardless of the advertising medium” – “that people get the information they need to evaluate sponsored statements” and, once they are made aware of the monetary (or other) compensation involved, “decide how much weight to give [the] endorsement.”

Once again, the full text of the updated FAQs may be found here. It is an extremely important document with which every U.S. marketer (and business) should be familiar.

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