US Federal Trade Commission Initiative on Influencers

11/05/2017

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the United States’ version of Ireland’ Consumer and Competition Protection Commission (CCPC). Last month it launched a high profile targeted initiative with influencers and celebrities reminding them that they “should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media.”

The FTC have previously published a very detailed guide on such matters, and in its advice the FTC state that “if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless it is already clear from the context of the communication.”

The FTC also highlight its concerns around disclosures specifically on Instagram. In its release, the FTC say “consumers viewing Instagram posts on mobile devices typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click “more,” which many may not do. The [FTC] informed [influencers] that when making endorsements on Instagram, they should disclose any material connection above the “more” button.”

The FTC also expressed concern that when “multiple tags, hashtags, or links are used, readers may just skip over them, especially when they appear at the end of a long post – meaning that a disclosure placed in such a string is not likely to be conspicuous.” The also expressed concern that some disclosure practices are “not sufficiently clear, pointing out that many consumers will not understand a disclosure like “#sp,” “Thanks [Brand],” or “#partner” in an Instagram post to mean that the post is sponsored.”

This intervention by the FTC is particularly significant and any PRII members engaging with influencers should pay regard to it as it will undoubtedly influence what happens at a European and Irish level. It is also significant as multi-national brands will tend to operate to the highest regulatory standard, so this may filter down to their operations in Ireland. The PRII’s guidelines on best practice in this area are available here.

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