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FTC comments at PMA's Marketing Law Conference "We have no intention of shutting down the blogosphere"

By Guest Blogger, Donna DeClemente, Donna's Promo Talk

Last week I wrote this post about my upcoming visit to Chicago to attend PMA's Annual Promotional Marketing Law Conference which is a highly anticipated event in the industry. Since then I wrote this post about day one of the conference which was pretty jam-packed with information. Most notably was the presentation from Facebook's Corporate Counsel, Suzie White, in which reviewed with us Facebook's new policy for running promotions on their platform that I defined as "hot off the press" since it was just posted on their website the night before. Here they are: www.facebook.com/promotions_guidelines.php.

PMA_09_Law4 On day two of the conference we were treated to a morning session that was titled "The Eyes Have It: A Regulatory Regatta". This panel included James Kohm, Director, Div. of Enforcement for the FTC. He was the first one that really addressed the issue of the recently updated disclosure guidelines which were just touched upon in prior sessions. Mr. Kohm started out saying "We have no intention of shutting down the blogosphere. The idea that we'll go after every little blogger is not the driving factor behind these new endorsement guidelines." Well that was very reassuring to hear.

James Kohm went on to say that what the FTC really was focused on was affiliate marketers. "Those affiliate marketers who make exaggerated claims just to drive web traffic and make money can't resolve themselves of responsibility." Can't agree with him more here!

This session was soon followed by lunch in which the keynote speaker was Charles Harwood, Deputy Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection for the FTC. Mr. Hardwood echoed James' comments by stating that the FTC's goal is NOT to shut down the Internet but instead apply the same principals that the guidelines have always had to today's new media.This update was the first time they revised the 40 year-old endorsement guidelines since 1980 so they needed to apply them to new media. Their objective now is to assist advertisers with integrating new media into their policies so the FTC decided to use blogs as examples. 

One area that Mr. Hardwood focused on was the "Results Not Typical" disclaimer that has been misused repeatability in advertising especially in the weight loss industry. The new guidelines don't disbar these disclaimers, but direct advertisers to look at the ad in whole and make sure the message is clear and also have substantiation for any claims that are made.

Mr. Harwood did admit that these guidelines are confusing. So I approached him after the presentation and introduced myself as a blogger who knows many other bloggers who are concerned that yes, these are very confusing. Not all bloggers and marketers will have the opportunity to hear directly from the top leaders of the FTC like I did, but instead have to make due themselves in understanding the 81 page document. He really didn't have an answer for this other to agree with me, but he did offer up his assistance in sitting on any conference panels coming up in which he can help communicate and clear up any misconceptions. I have his card, so let me know if you're interested in taking him up on his offer.

PMA_banner-2Now moving on, the PMA is planning their next event which will be the Digital Marketing Summit taking place in NYC on December 3. They've asked for my assistance in getting input from bloggers on how the new disclosure guidelines are affecting them or will be affecting them. They would like to share this info via a panel on the subject. I hope to be speaking on this panel that includes some top leaders in the industry such as Linda Goldstein from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and Randall Rothenberg, President of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. So I would love to hear from any of our blogger readers on this issue. Please feel free to contact me of leave a comment and I'll get in touch. I will definitely be reporting back on what we learn.

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