I’ve previously discussed the importance of disclosure – that is, making it clear as a day if compensation of any kind occurred for a piece of content, per Federal Trade Commission guidelines. In that post, I noted the FTC’s requirement to disclose within any social post if the content that is linked to is sponsored.
Well recently, the FTC exercised this mandate, settling charges with Deutsch LA for what the FTC deemed deceptive Twitter promotion. The notion that the FTC won’t actually monitor agencies’ social media activity as it relates to clients can officially be put to rest with this important wake up call.
Maybe you’re thinking the agency in question engaged in outrageous practices to mislead consumers. Well, you’d be wrong – the firm simply promoted a campaign for PlayStation (one of its clients) from employees’ personal handles, without disclosing PlayStation as a client. Did agency employees link to sponsored content they should have noted was paid for? Nope. Individuals were simply asked, not told, to tweet positive endorsements of a product while using a specific hashtag.
This isn’t meant to call out a specific agency and its campaign. This really could have been any number of agencies in an effort to build awareness for clients. Most, if not all, agencies only have one goal in mind: to do the best work they can for their clients. But in doing so, it’s easy to forget that while the client effectively operates as the agency’s “customer,” agencies must always keep their client’s customers in mind.
At Blanc & Otus, we have a long-standing policy in place that requires our team to call out whether a company is a client in promotional social posts. However, the rules are constantly changing and this is a great lesson as much as a cautionary tale. Disclosure can’t just occur via the agency social feeds – it extends to every employee of that agency, even those who may not work on or have anything to do with the specific account. Agencies should also take the measures needed to educate their employees on various disclosure mandates. For instance, this case was unrelated to disclosure of sponsored content, just content related to clients.
One easy quick fix to appease FTC regulators: simply add a #client or #ad hashtag to your post. I hope this helps and if you work in PR, communications or any other area where this might apply, feel free to get in touch with me with any questions at email@example.com.