Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revised its guidelines for disclosures in online advertising, including new guidance for ads that appear on cellphone screens.
One of the most important points made by the new “rules” is that when practical “advertisers should incorporate relevant limitations and qualifying
information into the underlying claim, rather than having a separate disclosure qualifying the claim.” That means don’t advertise “all books* on sale” with a disclaimer that says “*hardcover only”, when you could have clearly advertised “All Hardcover Books on Sale” to start with.
Some of the other basic principles include:
- Required disclosures should be clear and conspicuous;
- They should be close to the claim to which it relates;
- Only in rare circumstances should a hyperlink lead to the disclosure;
- You shouldn’t have to scroll to find the disclosure;
- Even small banner ads and tweets need appropriate disclosures.
Here are some sample ads created by the FTC to demonstrate some of their new principles:
In this ad, 3/4 Ct. is a link that goes to a disclosure that reveal that the diamonds actually may weigh between .72 and .78 carats. The FTC wants to see that disclosure right on this screen, near the 3/4 carat claim.
There is a health disclaimer at the bottom of this ad which warns that when temperatures are over 80 degrees, this cooler is not capable of keeping foods cold enough to prevent the growth of bacteria which could cause a foodborne illness. The FTC says that something this important should be right in the ad, and in close proximity to the claim that the box keeps food “fresh and cold.”
The FTC has separate testimonial rules that require people who are paid to express their opinion to disclose that fact. In this case, “JuliStarz” was a paid endorser. In addition, also in that set of guidelines is the requirement that the average benefit to be derived from a weight loss program be disclosed if the example given is atypical. In this case, the average person will much less than 30 pounds in six weeks, so the disclosure has to say, for example, avg weight loss = 3-lbs/wk.
Don’t hold your breath waiting to see online ads follow all these rules.