What The FTC? 3 Big Misconceptions About Brand Partnership Guidelines
Hey YBN Readers! Let’s welcome Krystal of Krystal Klarity! She is an Entertainment Attorney and Brand Strategist, with a passion for influencer marketing. Her work includes campaigns with Dove, SheaMoisture, Disney Studios, and many more. In this article, she’ll discuss the most common misconceptions among influencers regarding the FTC disclosure requirements for sponsored post.
Operating a business as an influencer involves so much more than great pictures and catchy captions, there are critical legal and business elements that you have to be aware of. I’ve worked with many clients, both influencers and brands, and there are key misconceptions that frequently come up during a campaign. As an Influencer, you’re no stranger to the #ad and #sponsored tags associated with brand collaborations, but do you know what the FTC is all about, and are you following the guidelines to ensure that your business is in compliance?
So what is the FTC?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the federal government agency that regulates influencer marketing and branded content/posts. Over the past two years, we’ve seen a significant growth in brand and influencer collaborations, and as anticipated, the FTC has stepped in to regulate the industry. The FTC provides guidelines to ensure that brands and influencers are disclosing their partnership relationships to their mutual audience. The FTC is also tasked with enforcing these regulations against brands and influencer, and they have the power to issue warnings and levy financial penalties on entities that are found to be in violation. Considering that it’s been estimated that 93% of the top influencers and celebrities on Instagram have violated an FTC endorsement guideline in some capacity, it’s imperative that you are in the know on how to be FTC compliant.
Here are three common misconceptions regarding FTC disclosures. Leave a comment below if one of these thoughts have ever crossed your mind or lips!
1. “My followers rely on my authentic voice and hate being sold to. If I include #ad they won’t be as engaged.”
A recent Sprout Social survey revealed that 74% of shoppers make buying decisions based on social media. With that in mind, it’s pretty safe to say that your followers DEPEND on your post to make purchases. While they aren’t looking for you to post full commercials, they are relying on your perspective. Sponsored posts are so prevalent that your audience is likely not to be turned off by an #ad tag, they’ve actually grown to expect it. They understand the hustle and appreciate you for putting them on to the newest trends and best products. As for your authentic voice, the FTC actually has you covered. The guidelines require that you provide truthful opinion regarding your experience with the featured product. This is why most brands ask your opinion on their product prior to entering a partnership, and some require approval of your captions prior to posting. They can’t prevent you from being honest or authentic. Remember, a brand isn’t paying you to love the product, they’re paying you to promote to your audience. To truly be authentic, only promote products you believe in and only engage with brands you want to be associated with.
2. “The FTC doesn’t really care about me, they’re more interested in going after the big brands.”
In 2017, the FTC went on a warning letter blitz, hitting everyone from J-Lo to members of the Kardashian family, putting them on notice for violating the guidelines. The letters also listed the consequences for sponsored post that aren’t compliant with the FTC guidelines. Another factor to consider is, many influencer agreements include language that allow the brand to hold the influencer liable if the campaign is found to be in violation of the FTC guidelines. You don’t want problems with the FTC, and the brands don’t either. Based on the FTC’s past practice, it’s only a matter of time before they bring a claim against an influencer to set an example- don’t let it be you!
3. “I’ll just bury the #ad tag at the bottom of my post or in a comment”
The FTC guidelines are very clear on the requirement that brand and influencers partnerships must be CLEARLY DISCLOSED to the public. The guidelines also include instructions on the placement of #ad or #sponsored, noting that the placement of the tags near the middle or end of the post are less likely to be effective. Burying your relationship with a brand in a sea of hashtags isn’t a good idea, it may even be perceived as dishonest. Also, platforms like Instagram are helping influencers disclose partnerships with features like the Branded Content Tagging Tool. Use every possible tag and tool to disclose your partnership and you won’t have to worry about a WTF moment with the FTC.
At first glance, the FTC guidelines can be intimidating. Federal penalties and filters don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, but as an Influencer you have to be aware of the rules so you can protect your brand partner and your personal brand. Like any relationship, honesty is the best policy. So make sure you CLEARLY disclose that next brand partnership… cause the Feds are watchin’!
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship, privilege or work product. This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as providing legal advice or opinion. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should engage an attorney. The legal information herein is provided “as is” without any representation or warranties.