FTC Updates “.Com Disclosure” Online Ad Guidelines

FTC ad disclosure rulesUnder the banner of preventing “fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices,” the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has updated its online advertising disclosure guidelines and requirements. A previous version of these guidelines was issued in 2000.

The rise of mobile devices and social media marketing, in particular, were cited as reasons the guidelines were updated:

How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, takes into account the expanding use of smartphones with small screens and the rise of social media marketing . . .

Like the original, the updated guidance emphasizes that consumer protection laws apply equally to marketers across all mediums, whether delivered on a desktop computer, a mobile device, or more traditional media such as television, radio, or print.

The primary idea expressed is that disclosures are required when not offering them would render an ad “deceptive or unfair.”

Disclosures must be “clear and conspicuous on all devices and platforms that consumers may use to view the ad.” This means that when a smartphone is used to view a PC landing page or site, marketers need to make any ad disclosures visually accessible to the smartphone user. In parallel, “advertisers using space-constrained ads” (e.g., social, mobile) are still required to provide disclosures to “prevent an ad from being deceptive.”

As a general matter, all ads (online and off) must:

  • Be truthful and not misleading
  • Be supported by evidence (when claims or comparisons are made)
  • Cannot be unfair

The report offers a range of specifics and detailed use cases that are many and varied. It also provides examples of mock ads to illustrate what constitutes a good or “clear and conspicuous” disclosure, as well as ones that fall short.

The FTC also says that links should not be used to bury disclosures or when “[disclosures] are an integral part of a claim or inseparable from it, including important health and safety information.”

Below is a copy of the full report. It can also be downloaded here.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Legal | Legal: General | Mobile Marketing | Social Media Marketing: Advertising

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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