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So You Want To Advertise On Twitter

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So you want to advertise on Twitter.

So you want to advertise on Twitter but you have a limited number of characters.  Surely you do not have to worry about traditional advertising disclosures do you?

According to FTC Guidelines social media ads may not be deceptive or misleading.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal agency that regulates advertising disclosures, has weighed in on the issue of social media advertising by announcing last week that it had updated the so-called “DotCom Disclosures” Guidance released in 2000. The new guidance points out that advertisers using space-constrained ads, such as on some social media platforms, must still provide disclosures necessary to prevent an ad from being deceptive. Advertisers cannot make the required disclosures through pop-ups, because they are often blocked according to the Guidelines.

What if the required advertising disclosures will not fit in the available space?

According to the new Guidelines, if “a disclosure is necessary to prevent an advertisement from being deceptive, unfair, or otherwise violative of a Commission rule, and it is not possible to make the disclosure clearly and conspicuously, then that ad should not be disseminated. This means that if a particular platform does not provide an opportunity to make clear and conspicuous disclosures, then that platform should not be used to disseminate advertisements that require disclosures.”

Why pay attention to Staff Commentary and Guidance?

Often Staff Commentary and agency Guidelines are road maps to enforcement policy.  The agency is notifying those covered by the rules or regulations under what circumstances it will begin an investigation that could lead to enforcement activity.

How should you comply with the disclosure requirements?

Possible Twitter solutions mentioned in the Guidelines suggest using “Ad” at the beginning of an advertising Tweet, or using the word “sponsored”.  It is also important to insure that disclosures are readable on mobile devices as well.  A hypothetic example of an inappropriate disclosure noted by the Guidelines concerned the use of the hash tag #spon because this use could be unclear to consumers.  But be careful, if the nature of the advertising requires additional disclosures based on traditional consumer protection principles, it is clear that particular social media platform may not be appropriate for that content.

What about Tweets that are really celebrity endorsements?

Companies marketing on social media should be careful about hiring celebrities to Tweet about its products without proper disclosure.  The new Guidelines specifically disapprove of a marketing approach uses Tweets from celebrity endorsers without appropriate disclosure that the material is advertising.

The conclusion.

It is now clear that traditional consumer protection rules in advertising apply in the online world even in an environment that is space limited.

If you wish to review the Guidelines they can be found at: http://1.usa.gov/WRG9ES

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