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BizReport : Law & Regulation : March 15, 2013

FTC warns advertisers against cutting corners on small screens

The Federal Trade Commission has made it clear that it is mandatory for all advertising appearing on social media sites, or designed for small screens, to be accompanied by disclosures that are as clear as possible.

by Helen Leggatt

The FTC has made revisions to its .Com Disclosures guidelines that "takes into account the expanding use of smartphones with small screens and the rise of social-media marketing".

The new rules emphasize the need for marketers to ensure consumer protection laws apply equally no matter the format or size of the marketing message.

The new rules serve as a warning to marketers who may need to review how their websites appear on mobile devices, particularly when it comes to disclosures.

"Sometimes there may be no way around it. But in many cases, the need for a disclosure is really a warning sign that the underlying ad claim may contain some element of deception," says the FTC's Lesley Fair.

In a nutshell, if an ad without a disclosure could be construed as deceptive or unfair, or otherwise violate a Commission rule, and if the disclosure cannot be made clearly and conspicuously on a device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used.

"Rather than focusing on fonts, hyperlinks, proximity, platforms, and the whole disclosures rigmarole," explains Fair, "how about stepping back and reformulating the ad claim to get rid of the need for a disclosure in the first place?"

Tags: advertisers, advertising, consumer protection, disclosures, Federal Trade Commission, guidelines, mobile optimization, social media

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