Celebrities and Bloggers Beware: The FTC’s Proposed Revisions to its Endorsement and Testimonial Advertising Guides Address New Advertising TechniquesNovember 25, 2008
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking comments on proposed revisions to its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. The Guides, although advisory in nature, set forth the principles the FTC will follow in reviewing endorsements and testimonials and provide examples that illustrate the principles set forth therein.
The proposed revisions have taken into consideration the comments the agency received in response to its January 2007 notice concerning the results of consumer research on consumer endorsements and related issues. Among other things, the Commission is proposing to make clear in the Guides that advertisers can be held liable for any false or unsubstantiated statements made by endorsers or for not disclosing any material connections between themselves and the endorsers. In addition, the proposed revisions would provide that endorsers, including expert endorsers and celebrities, may be held liable for their statements.
Several new examples are proposed to be added to the Guides. One example will demonstrate how advertisers may be liable for using bloggers to promote their products and how bloggers themselves may be held liable. Another will make clear that experts must have the level of expertise that the advertisement suggests. Yet another example will illustrate the FTC’s expectation that celebrities disclose their financial connection to any product they endorse during routine interviews because consumers do not expect celebrities to be paid for what appear to be genuine, unplanned discussions of a product.
The proposed revisions are expected to be published in the Federal Register soon, but they can currently be viewed through the FTC’s website at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/11/endorsements.shtm. Comments on the revisions are due by January 30, 2009.