William Rothbard is a well-known former FTC attorney, and he recently presented at Affiliate Summit West. During his presentation he provided a number of great tips on how to avoid FTC action. As most marketers are aware, the FTC has been cracking down on a number of different companies over the past few months. We’ve reported on several of them here, but there are others as well. With that in mind, any tips you can get from a credible source like this should be most welcomed.
Deceptive or Unfair Advertising
One main topic he talked about was deceptive or unfair marketing practices, which are a big no-no for the FTC. He talked about exactly what deceptive or unfair advertising consisted of, which is any type of advertising that has a significant chance to give the consumer the incorrect impression about the product or service being marketed. He then went on to talk about what the FTC does when they find this type of advertising. He mentioned things like cease and desist orders as well as ex parte orders, which causes the assets of a business (and possibly its owners) to be frozen while an investigation takes place.
He talked about the importance of substantiation in all marketing and advertising efforts. This simply means that all objective claims must be able to be supported with reliable evidence. This is especially important when making claims about the performance of a product, or how it can impact someone’s health. Safety claims are also very important in this area. Supporting your claims by, “competent and reliable scientific evidence,” is required.
Having a disclosure on your site or your advertisements it not usually enough. Rothbard talked about how important it is to have ‘clear and conspicuous’ disclosures that are there to prevent ads from being misleading. Any disclosures you have on your site need to not only be easy to see and featured in a prominent place on the site, but they also have to be written in easy-to-understand language.
Another important point about where disclosures must be located is that they should be near the item that they are about. If you have a claim in the middle of your web page, the disclosure should be right next to it so it is clear that the two are associated. He said that the FTC is beginning to regulate down to the color, font size and other items when it comes to ensuring the disclosures are clear enough to protect the consumers.
If you weren’t lucky enough to attend Affiliate Summit West, it is a good idea to think about how the FTC will be looking at your business. IF there is any question about what your marketing is saying, the FTC may be concerned. They can cause major problems for any business so make sure you fix your issues before they do. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your business is not big enough or important enough to be looked at by the FTC. They review businesses of all types and sizes.