FTC Updates Online Ad Guidelines for a High-Tech Mobile World
The FTC has issued updated guidelines for online advertisers so that, from tweets to radio ads, there's more truth in advertising.The Federal Trade Commission is back to tackling the challenge of avoiding deception in advertising. The organization announced an update to its guidelines for online advertisers, titled "Dot-Com Disclosures," which seeks to address the "dramatic changes" that have taken place online during the 11 years since its last guidelines were published. The new guidelines emphasize that consumer protection laws apply equally across media, whether a radio ad, television commercial or a tweet; that when practical, advertisers should incorporate relevant qualifying information, rather than having a separate disclosure; that disclosures should be clear and conspicuous; and that if a disclosure can't be made effectively, then an advertiser should go in search of a Plan B. "If an advertisement without a disclosure would be deceptive or unfair, or would otherwise violate a commission rule, and the disclosure cannot be made clearly and conspicuously on a device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used," the FTC said in a March 12 statement. In its new guidelines, the FTC also got a bit stricter—a necessary thing, given that online content is now much more frequently being viewed on mobile devices with smaller viewing real estate. While the 2000 guidelines defined disclosure proximity as "near, and when possible, on the same screen," the updated version insists disclosures be "as close as possible" to the claim.
Other major updates include advising advertisers to avoid including disclosures in pop-up windows, which are often blocked, and addressing the tricky business of including a disclosure in an ad space as limited as a tweet.