Adam T. Sutton

Liable for Bloggers’ Claims

October 7th, 2009

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday published the final version of its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. These new rules will govern how companies can use consumer, expert and organizational endorsements to make claims about products.

There are many important updates, which become effective Dec. 1. MarketingSherpa is working on an article describing the changes that marketers need to know. In the meantime, I want to point out one change that should concern anyone who sends free products to bloggers to generate buzz.

If a blogger writes a positive review of a product that you sent free-of-charge, that post may be considered an “endorsement.” It depends on the value of the product and whether the blogger routinely receives such requests.

“If the blogger frequently receives products from manufacturers because he or she is known to have wide readership within a particular demographic group…the blogger’s statements are likely to be deemed to be ‘endorsements,’” according to the guidelines.

“Similarly, consumers who join word-of-mouth marketing programs that periodically provide them products to review publicly (as opposed to simply giving feedback to the advertiser) will also likely be viewed as giving sponsored messages.”

Now here’s the kicker: if the post is deemed an “endorsement” and the blogger writes false claims into the review, the blogger and the advertiser are liable for the misleading statements.

So if you, a phone manufacturer, send a free phone to a popular tech blogger who writes a positive review that the phone also makes a fantastic life raft — you are liable for that claim.

The guidelines suggest that advertisers who send free products to bloggers (directly or through a service) make sure that they provide guidance to ensure that the bloggers’ statements are truthful and substantiated.

“The advertiser should also monitor bloggers who are being paid to promote its products and take steps necessary to halt the continued publication of deceptive representations when they are discovered,” according to the guidelines.

So if you are sending out free products to bloggers, your job might be more difficult after Dec. 1. Stay tuned for more info as MarketingSherpa digs into the details.

Adam T. Sutton

About Adam T. Sutton

Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter, MarketingSherpa
Adam generates content for MarketingSherpa's Email and Inbound Marketing newsletters. His years of experience in interviewing marketers and conveying their insights has spanned topics such as search marketing, social media marketing, ecommerce, email and more. Adam previously powered the content behind MarketingSherpa's Search and Consumer-marketing newsletters and carries that experience into his new role. Today, in addition to writing articles, he contributes content to the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa blogs, as well as MECLABS webinars, workshops and summits.

Prior to joining MarketingSherpa, Adam was the Managing Editor at the Mequoda group. There he created content and promotions for the company's daily email newsletter and managed its schedule.

Categories: Consumer Marketing, Marketing Law Tags: , , , , ,

  1. October 11th, 2009 at 14:31 | #1

    This regulation is over the top. Making advertisers monitor bloggers is nuts. Is this in perpetuity? What are the “steps necessary” to halt publication?

We no longer accept comments on the MarketingSherpa blog, but we'd love to hear what you've learned about customer-first marketing. Send us a Letter to the Editor to share your story.