Recently the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) sent letters of warning to sixty companies that made improper disclosures in print and TV ads, including twenty of the largest advertisers in the country.
The action, dubbed Operation Full Disclosure, singled out ads featuring disclosures that were hard to find, misleading, or lacking in important information. Those sixty companies will have to correct the ads in question, and the FTC recommends that all companies review all of their advertisements to make sure disclosures are ‘clear and conspicuous’ and in line with all FTC guidelines.
Now is an excellent time to review not only your print and TV ads, but online ads as well, especially in your affiliate program. Operation Full Disclosure follows on the heels of some pretty major updates the FTC made to its online policies last year. These guidelines have hit affiliate marketing particularly hard, as programs need to make sure that each individual affiliate is promoting the brand within the guidelines set by the FTC.
The new guidelines require bloggers to include a ‘conspicuous’ disclosure explaining that the author was compensated for featuring the product on his blog or is part of a company’s affiliate program, regardless of whether a post is endorsing a product or just discussing its merits.
Some have argued the guidelines aren’t fair to affiliate marketers, but regardless, affiliate programs need to comply with them as long as they are the law. You can imagine how gargantuan a task this can be when you consider that many affiliate programs have hundreds or even thousands of affiliates. Making sure affiliates comply with FTC guidelines is just one more task heaped on completely overwhelmed in-house program managers – or ignored entirely, at the risk of getting penalized by the FTC.
The best thing merchants can do is be proactive about making sure all their advertising complies with the disclosure guidelines. Don’t wait for the FTC to send you a warning. Audit all of your advertisements and don’t forget about your affiliate program too. And if making sure your affiliates comply with FTC disclosures seems like too daunting a task, consider enlisting the help of experienced, hands-on program managers who can make sure affiliates do a great job promoting your brand within the letter of the law.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help your affiliate program comply with the FTC and attract new customers. Or download our latest eBook to learn about how the affiliate marketing industry is changing.