On June 29, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced updated endorsement guidelines for influencers and brands. The FTC Endorsement Guides now give creators stricter rules for working with brands and how to disclose that affiliation. With input from public comments, these final revised rules include several revisions to the Endorsement Guides and their FAQ, last updated in 2009 and 2017, respectively.
“It adds specific guidance for influencers on when and how to disclose material connections across different kinds of platforms, and it gives FTC staff’s views about brand monitoring of influencers and platform disclosure tools,” a press release from the FTC said.
What FTC Endorsement Guidelines Changed?
Here are just a few of the specific changes and disclosures for influencers found in the FTC Endorsement Guides:
- When uploading a video on TikTok, including #ad or a similar disclosure is no longer enough. You’ll now need to “superimpose much larger text” over videos, according to the FAQ, to make sure readers can see it.
- If you work with a company and decide to post negative content about their competitor, known as de-influencing, then you must disclose that you have a paid relationship — even if that specific video wasn’t paid for. “It would likely affect the weight and credibility that your audience gives to your negative comments,” according to the FAQ.
- Even products that just appear in the background of a video need to follow the FTC Act, even if that specific post wasn’t paid for.
- Disclosures also can’t appear behind links, they need to be on the actual post.
- Tagging a brand or thanking a brand in the description is not enough disclosure.
- In a blog, disclosure must be front and center, not just posted at the bottom. “A disclosure should be placed where it easily catches consumers’ attention and is difficult to miss,” the FAQ reads.
- If you review multiple products, you need to disclose which specific ones were sponsored.
- Foreign content creators advertising to U.S. consumers also need to follow these new rules (though this was always the case).
Influencers aren’t the only ones who are dealing with new FTC endorsement guidelines. Brands that send free products need to make it clear to influencers that they must disclose that it was a gift in any social media post.
Also, a new FTC rule mandates brands cannot send review requests to only people that would only give positive reviews (by looking at where they have the highest customer satisfaction). According to the FAQ, that would be “misleading” since that doesn’t encompass all opinions.
These FTC endorsement guidelines are important because they help keep the consumer and the influencer above board, respecting both with full disclosure. They are meant to give some transparency to viewers, showing them exactly what is and isn’t paid for. That clear vision can be hard to come by, with most social media stars putting their modern polished social media visage directly into their content.
Online, these rules have been met with appreciation since it helps clarify what they can or can’t do. On Twitter, lawyer Rob Freund broke down the important changes to the FTC endorsement guidelines, with others in the thread describing it as “a very important read.”
As a creator, it’s now more important than ever to look over the contracts you’ve been sent and make sure that they follow the strict guidelines and these new changes. There’s nothing worse than having a brand write in key parts of your activation that break the law. The FTC can sue the brand, influencer, or any agency involved in setting up the deal under the FTC Act, with a $50,000 fine for each infraction.
Overall, the FTC endorsement guidelines add a fair bit of clarity to the confusing influencer market space. Though complying with the government’s rule can always be tricky, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are making content that abides. Now that influencers are fairly mainstream and a crucial part of nearly every advertising campaign, these rules are only going to grow.
So next time you get a product for free, make sure you tell your audience!