OFFICIAL BLOGHER '10 LIVEBLOG: BlogHer Business - FTC Guidelines, One Year Later

BlogHer Original Post

Welcome to the liveblog of the BlogHer Business '10 panel: The FTC Guidelines, One Year Later

This panel starts at 1:30pm and ends at 2:45pm 4:00pm Eastern time on August 5, 2010. Keep refreshing this page as the panel takes place for more liveblogging!


The FTC Guidelines have been a hot topic for the majority of the year – but have they had any significant impact on how marketers and bloggers do business? What changes have we seen in social media marketing as a result? What kinds of enforcement actions have been taken? Are you and the brands or bloggers you work with in compliance with the new rules? BlogHer's co-founder and COO, Elisa Camahort Page, will explore compliance with Stacey Ferguson from the FTC, attorney and blogger Liza Barry-Kessler and WOMMA’s Executive Director, Kristen Smith.

1:41 Eastern: Elisa says the panel will discuss what the FTC guidelines are and if they are being enforced. Starting with Stacy to tell about the FTC guidelines. Elisa says they have been in the eye of the storm.

"Stacy, when you started working on this did you think it would be this controversial?" asked Elisa
Stacy's response: Thought we were just clarifying existing regulations.
Section 5 of the FTC At that this comes under. Section 5 makes unfair practices deceptive. Need to disclose or it would be deceptive.
This is an updated version of 1980 endorsement guide. The biggest thing we thought were updating about results not typical in a advertising.
Quickly went into outreach mode.
1:50Liza Barry-Kessler says her job is to help clients understand the risks involved with not disclosing. The safest way is to have disclosure statement right next to an affiliate link. Most clients don't want that parenthetical statement in the copy. Good solution: hover copy and make it fun.

1:56 Elisa asks Kristen Smith if her community wanted to see how others were handling this. Most in her community felt they were reflecting core practices. Needed to legitimize their processes. Having very specific processes, what was being disclosed and how it was being disclosed.
2:00 Kristen says lots of concern about disclosure on Twitter - WOMMA created a social media guide.
Stacy says: Bloggers need to disclose they have a relationship with your company.
Tip #2Need to tell your bloggers they have to disclose relationship to your company. FTC doesn't tell how you have to make that disclosure. WOMMA has wonderful language to help companies.
Have a monitoring policy in place.
Tip #2It's the company responsibility to make sure the bloggers are making those disclosures
Tip #3 Make sure bloggers aren't making false claims about your products.
Lisa clarifies only applies if the company gives the blogger products. People can review you and say whatever they want if they don't have a relationship with your company.
Ann Taylor Loft case. Ann Taylor said if people came to fashion show and then blogged about it they would have a chance to win a gift. FTC opened an investigation. Requested documents, decided to close the investigation.
Reasons why FTC closed the investigation: TAnn Taylor told bloggers to disclose. Event had signs telling bloggers to disclose. They implemented a monitoring policy before FTC opened the investigation.They gave everyone a gift card who attended the event.
The compelling reason that the investigation was closed is that they had a policy in place.
Lisa says: Why would anyone go to a Ann Taylor fashion event for a chance to win a gift.
Elisa says companies have a responsibility to check out a bloggers best practices. Ultimately, if a blogger breaks the rule, the responsibility falls on the company.

2:15 Question about celebrity endorsements? Stacy says it all goes back to what the consumer understands. Once it's taken out of traditional advertising where consuemrs know the celebrity is being paid for the endorsement, then the best practice is to always disclose because we don't know what the audience understands.
Stacy gives the example of Carl Jr. Kim Kardashian did a commercial. Later tweeted saying something about being hungry and going to Carl Jr for a salad. FTC checked to see if she was paid. FTC checked and she wasn't contracted to tweet about it so it wasn't a violation.
Lisa says: Under the example Kim Kardashian decided to tweet about the salad. We don't know her motivations. If your documentation is good, FTC won't want to open an investigation. A little extra disclosure is a little extra protection.
Question: What is best disclosure on Twitter. Hashtag #ad is used. Elisa says when she tweets about sponsor, says the word sponsor rather than using hashtags.
Elisa won't say #ad because it seems that they client wrote it for you.
Stacy says #ad is the shortest way to do it.
1:25 Stacy says she hasn't seen celebrities using hashtags to disclose they are getting paid. Kristen says #end for endorsement. Stacy doesn't like #end because audience won't understand that that is endorsement.
Stacy asked are they investigating any celebrities.
Stacy declined to answer.
Elisa shares an anecdote where a talk show host was talking about the Blackberry and the host was holding up her Blackberry. Then the commercial went to commercial and it was a Blackberry, Elisa said it was deceptive because it was a pay to play.
Stacy says that product placement is an endorsement. Stacy says tough call on this case because if the host was just holding up the blackberry, not an endorsement ,but if she was saying that she loved her blackberry probably was.
2:32 Stacy says brands always asking "what we should say." WOMMA does tell people what to say. Stacy says WOMMA goes above and beyond FTC requirements because FTC would never say people have to disclose how much they are being paid. WOMMA wants that disclosure.
Kristen says WOMMA has a social media disclosure guide.
Stacy does not want the disclosure to be burdensome. Doesn't need to be a big, separate disclosure.
Question about books. Do you need to disclosure if you get free books or is it so assumed, that everyone gets for free.
Stacy says books should still disclose.
Elisa I never assume they got it for free.
I get there is a meta angst about this. Do you have less respect for us that FTC is paying attention. Okay, I get the meta angst and existential angst, her question: Why don't you want to add the disclosure about your relationship. I don't think it's picking on bloggers specifically.
Lisa says its scary that the FTC is a government agency and they could take an enforcement against you. Part of what WOMMA's educational role is that bloggers understand how important this is.
Stacy: from law enforcement perspetive. The burden is always on FTC to prove it. Stacy says intent not a factor.Most of the time the enforcement action on the brand, not the blogger.
Kristen says the brands are struggling because they need a dashboard system where the brands can manage to see which bloggers are disclosing, how to evaluate and spot check.
2:42 Question about celebrity endorsements. What happens when agency sends bloggers a picture of an event where a celebrity is paid to appear. Does the blogger have to disclose that? Stacy says can't evaluate, have to do it on a case by case basis. But, if celebrity is part of a campaign, those photos could be considered an endorsement.

Lisa says brands need to evaluate their privacy policies. The deceptive trade practice occurs when a company does one thing and they have a written policy that says something else. Lisa says to watch out for new rules in communicating with teens.
Question: is it safe to assume that if you are in compliance with FTC then you are in compliance with states? Most rules did not change, the guidelines were just updated. Stacy says individual states could have more specific guidelines. Need to always pay attention to state law.
Stacy says we have an open process. If you have questions or comments, contact us. Every time we have a settlement with a company we put that on open comment. I have to read every comment. Send to

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