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Could It Be YOU?
Since the announcement from the FTC that they had updated their advertising and endorsement guidelines, there sure has been a lot of talk and speculation over what all this means for those of us who work online. While the new FTC guidelines are not aimed solely at the blogging community, the internet is a new advertising medium that until these changes was not included in their policies. What does all this mean for us – especially for those of us that are affiliate marketers and online vendors? Who is the FTC after?
It’s Only Been 29 Years
The last time the FTC revised their guidelines was in 1980. This silly little thing called ‘the internet’ happened since then so I would think it’s about time they did some updating.
Here is an excerpt from the FTC announcement that was released on October 5, 2009 –
The Federal Trade Commission today announced that it has approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act.
The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides were last updated in 1980.
As I said previously, these revisions are not ONLY for the online marketing community – they are for ALL advertisers be it print, radio, television, etc. After reading and re-reading the 81-page revision guide from the FTC, I have to admit that I have been paying more attention to commercials than I ever have in my life! I am very curious to see how these commercials change to try and comply once everything takes effect on December 1, 2009.
I have this vision that a normal 30 second commercial will suddenly become 10 seconds of content and 20 seconds of disclaimers…lol!
That FTC document is full of ALLLLL kinds of hypothetical scenarios in an attempt to explain who should comply in all kinds of situations, but all it really does is confuse most folks. It also can make for a good chuckle here and there as well.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, I don’t play one on TV either. I have no legal knowledge nor am I offering advice or anything that should be construed as advice (enough of a disclaimer? lol). All that said, I do have some thoughts on all this now that I have read more, learned more, and really thought about it.
Thoughts About The FTC Revisions
First off, I think it is a really good idea that we comply. No, not because of some rumor of an $11,000 fine for not complying with the FTC, but because there is nothing wrong with being transparent.
Also, as Frank Kern pointed out, when it’s you vs the FTC – it won’t be you that wins. He also shared his story of how being sued by the FTC is no fun at all.
I do also admit some shock that there are still people in this world that don’t realize that the celebrity raving about that latest diet is a PAID endorsement. Or that those pharmaceutical commercials that depict these “real life” people with certain medical conditions that were solved by some pill are actually paid actors.
But the fact remains, that there are MANY people out there who do NOT know this. There are also plenty out there that really believe that if they take that diet pill and do nothing else to change their lifestyle habits, that they will lose 500 pounds overnight. If they buy that how to make money ebook and DO nothing – maybe not even READ it – that they will get rich overnight.
Yes, its sad….. sad, but true.
Those are extreme examples, but the fact remains that people all around us are being sucked in to deceptive advertising every minute of every day and I think that is what the FTC is wanting to get a handle on.
Most likely, if you are reading this little blog of mine, you work online or have some knowledge of internet marketing. Folks, the Wild, Wild Web is a haven for those that are out to deceive others for profit. I am sure that is not a news flash for any of you.
Those of us that understand internet marketing may have built up a bit of immunity to a lot of the things going on around us. We are more aware of how things can be online – how a simple script can do something to a page…. how a seemingly innocent link in your email could rob you blind…. how clicking a link on a site could generate revenue for that site owner…and so on.
However, I think those that truly understand that and are aware of it make up MAYBE 1% of the population.
The good news is….
As of December 1, 2009 – EVERYTHING On The Internet Will Be TRUE
A local friend of mine asked me about these new FTC guidelines the other day and that is how I responded. Yep, all advertisements on TV, radio, print, the internet….they will all be TRUE after December 1st. (please see the humor in that statement).
I think we all realize that it won’t work that way in reality, but these FTC revisions just might put a little more faith into the average consumer when it comes to buying online. That can only help us. Knowing that our family, friends, and loved ones that fall into the “other 99%” will be a little more protected is only a good thing, too.
I bet we all know of at least ONE person who got taken by some deceptive advertising or online scam. It would be nice if that happened a little less and it would be even better if consumers were more aware.
However, I am afraid that all these compliance guidelines will do is increase the amount of fine print in advertising to the point where no one reads it at ALL. The FTC says that relationships etc must be disclosed, but I don’t recall them saying HOW to disclose it.
To me, this is a fascinating time to be involved with internet marketing as we watch all this evolve….see who gets made the “example”….see how many bail because it all gets too hard.
Who Does The FTC Want?
Last night, as I was doing some market research, I didn’t notice it, but a pop-up window opened in my task bar. I wish I could remember what site I was on when it happened, but I simply can’t recall. BUT, I CAN recall the little site that I saw in that pop-up.
As soon as I looked at it I thought, “THAT is exactly who the FTC wants to nail!” I kept the window open with plans to blog about it today, but my computer re-booted itself last night and I lost it. Go figure.
Crazy how things work tho. Today, in my email, I got an email from Harlan Kilstein who made a video he wanted to share with everyone. It was a video about a flog CPA scam site…
The exact same site I saw last night. Thank you, Harlan!
For the record, a flog is a fake blog….and I personally think these types of sites will be directly in the cross-hairs of the FTC come December 1st (if they aren’t already).
Take a moment and watch this video from Harlan – see if it shocks you, too.
Flog CPA Scam Video
Think back to when you were first looking into making money online – wouldn’t you have really looked at this site? Doesn’t the setup give the perception of credibility where it is totally NOT deserving? Do you feel that maybe some of the folks in your “other 99%” might fall for this?
I think so and personally, I am ok with that kind of advertising being monitored. To me, it’s not about free speech – it’s about flat-out deception.
So, How Do We Comply?
That’s a good question and one that I am not exactly sure of yet. We are all gonna have to be accountable for our own businesses and do our due diligence with this. These guidelines are new – not even being enforced yet – so I KNOW there will be tons of backlash and hysteria and all that other fun stuff that comes when something this major happens in our community. Just don’t forget, this extends wayyyyy beyond our internet marketing community – it applies to ALL advertisers. I imagine there are corporate lawyers scrambling all over the world to either fight this or figure out how the heck to comply.
Andrew Hansen has a great post about his thoughts in how to comply here >> My Take On the New FTC Changes
This could all prove to be very interesting….very interesting, indeed.
So, your thoughts? Have you been following all this? How do you feel this will impact your business? What are your plans to comply…or to NOT comply?