When the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued new rules last October that govern how bloggers in the U.S. can publish endorsements or reviews of products for which they’ve received compensation, a lot of controversy ensued. Mainly because bloggers saw this as a direct attack on their ability to report on products or consumer services. At the time, however, most Netizens seemed to at least agree that the rules appeared to be fair across the board.
Boy were we wrong.
Apparently, how a law is written and how it’s enforced are two separate issues and this is a blatantly obvious illustration of how that works. The FTC’s website says this about celebrity endorsements:
“The revised Guides also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.”
That clearly says that celebrities, like the rest of us, are required to disclose any financial relationships they might have with products or services they are endorsing.
Well, to you and me it might clearly say that. To the FTC’s Rich Cleland, though, it doesn’t really say that. Instead, it has some caveats. At least, that’s what was reported by DailyFinance when Jeff Bercovici approached Cleland about an obvious (to him) violation of the new FTC rule by celebrity Gwenneth Paltrow.
According to the FTC’s advertising division associate director, there is a difference between Joe Blogger and celebrities: people commonly know that celebrities receive free stuff. We do? I was under the impression that celebs just get paid a boatload of money, not that they also got freebies.
Of course, if a celebrity like Paris Hilton were to blog about the greatness of the Hilton hotel chain, most of us would probably say “well, duhh.” If Brad Pitt were to appear in a commercial for Preparation H and be seen on Twitter saying that “Preparation H is awesome, I couldn’t sit down without it!” then we would probably put 2 and 2 together.
I can’t say that I can clearly draw a line when, however, Gwenneth Paltrow blogs about her awesome hotel experience without revealing any financial ties or compensation (freebies) she may have received in relation to that. She wasn’t in a commercial, ad spot, or otherwise clearly tied to the hotel in question, so it’s much shadier. Aren’t some bloggers considered celebrities in their arena? Who governs who a celebrity is? Maybe we should also have government agency to classify celebs vs. the rest of us.
To add to this, I heard a local radio show today where the host, Jeremy Loper on 103.1 repeatedly discussed the merits of a specific product, but never said anything about whether he is compensated for doing so. I would assume he is, since it was an apparent commercial slot, or why would he devote such time to it, but his clear avoidance of any actual disclosure seems to indicate that he’s in violation of the FTC’s rules. Other local radio show personalities down here Paul and Young Ron also talk about Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, and never mention they get free pizza when they go. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, I am sure nobody gives much thought to it.
Oh, wait. Those rules only apply to social media like blogging. Woops. Radio and TV aren’t included.
Gee, that’s fair.