I didn't plan on going into this anymore after my last blog post until there were new things to say but I continue to see a lot of hype that I think needs to be balanced out.
Personally, I don't think there needs to be so much concern about this and here's why.
I did some further research, I read other opinions, I read the FTC example scenarios, I read lawyers opinions and I don't see why people are so freaked out about this.
Is it serious? Yes.
Is it something you need to be concerned about? Sure.
Is it an opportunity? Absolutely
Before I go further into why, I want to remind you that I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know anything about anything! You should check with yours to see how this impacts you, but here is my layman’s view…First, remember these things:
- These are new guidelines, they are NOT laws, and have yet to be enforced in any way or proven they are even enforceable so nobody actually knows what will really happen.
- The FTC has published scenarios which help strip away some of the fear being put into the marketplace.
- The point of the guidelines is to stop marketers from over hyping their products to help make sure that prospects have a reasonable expectation of what results they will get; the key word is expectation, don’t be misleading in the expectation (something that is an all to common marketing practice because, it sells and typical results don’t).
- The FTC has said it will not be fining any first-time offenders, they will issue a warning and, if that is ignored, they will issue a cease and desist order. If that is ignored then things get more serious and fines may apply.
- The FTC has said that it won’t have a horde of “testimonial police” out looking for offenders and will mostly look into cases where there are complaints filed.
- The FTC will go after the bigger players and “authorities” first because there is more potential harm they can cause.
When asked, Mary Engle, associate director for advertising practices, said,
“All bloggers aren’t the same and we are not saying that all bloggers are marketers. Most of them are ordinary folks musing or sounding off.
“The question as we put it in the notice we published today is whether, viewed objectively, the blogger is being sponsored by the advertiser. (We list a number of factors to consider.)
“Independent product reviewers, whether offline or online, would not be viewed as sponsored by the company whose products they are reviewing.”
She also said.
“But if bloggers regularly receive free products from a company, the blog audience might view their reviews differently than if they went out and bought the products on their own. Under those circumstances, bloggers should disclose they got the products from the company.
“This is consistent with the WOMMA code of ethics. And, companies who use bloggers to generate buzz about their products by sending free merchandise should have a policy that their bloggers should disclose.”
Still you might be confused about what’s what and what to do.
Here’s what I think and what I’ll do.
Along with what I talked about last time in Are the New FTC Rules the Death of Internet Marketing? I will…
Couple your testimonials with other facts to give context.
For example, in my “I lost 53 pounds in 10 weeks following…” excerpt, just add some other facts that put the results in perspective.
You could say that before or after the testimonial something like:
“Mary also cut out sweets and high fat foods, started walking 5 miles a day and doing strength training 3 times a week.”
Or even build the testimonial into the sales copy like:
“One of our big success stories is Mary, she cut out sweets and high fat foods and had this to say ‘I lost 53 pounds in 10 weeks following…’ Mary was also happy to tell us she started walking 5 miles a day and is proud of the improve muscle one in her body from her 3 times a week strength training sessions.”
Another way you can continue to use the powerful testimonials is to create case studies from them.
This is a method I recommend in general and can actually make them stronger than the testimonial itself, as I mentioned in my blog post Explode Your Sales by Building Trust with Testimonials, and frequently this will improve your sales.
Again, going back to giving realistic expectations, I think that including some examples of people who didn’t get good results would go a long way towards following the guidelines.
Including something like this does help bring back the truth in “truth-in-advertising”:
“Of course, not everyone has the same results as Mary, for example, Paul only lost 5 pounds in 10 weeks …”
There has been a flood of talk about this topic, more than was necessary but if you have continued interest in this topic here are some interesting places to look:
- An open letter to the FTC by the CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau
- Additional questions raised in an open letter by blogger Ron Hogan
Some sources of actual legal opinions are:
- Joel Comm’s attorney has posted his opinion on Joel’s blog
- Attorney Mike Young has a report on his opinion of the guidelines and, having some good marketing chops himself (or at least good advice), at the end of the report he’s selling a product of legal forms including those to help you with these new guidelines.
If you think you don’t want to possibly risk it or just need a good set of legal forms for your Web properties (always a good idea) then my friend Jason Anderson says Mike’s product is good so here’s Jason’s affiliate if you want to check out: http://JasonAnderson.me/blog/legalforms.
Ultimately, each person has to decide what the price for their integrity is and I’m not here to judge that but the FTC has raised the price you may have to pay if you decide to violate.
While I feel I might have even helped fuel the problem, the bottom line is don’t be scared about this, don’t be taken in by the marketing hype and use it too your advantage.
While everyone else is wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth, go out and use some of the techniques discussed here and previously and make more sales than before!
As always your comments are greatly appreciated so leave me a comment and let me know you views and what you’ll be doing.
DavidThe “Shameless” (but “Ethical”) Marketer http://www.Twitter.com/DavidHusnian http://www.8-8-8Sale.com http://www.MusicForInternetMarketers.com http://www.SecretsOfGoogleAdwords.com http://www.MadMondaySale.com http://www.2ForTuesdaySale.com
O.Y. If you want to read the new guidelines for yourself just go to http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorsementguidesfnnotice.pdf (the “good parts” start down around page 55)
O.O.Y. Don't forget to retweet this! Use the button on the blog page or Tweet this:Don’t be afraid of the FTC, here’s the truth http://bit.ly/4iAdW9 (via @DavidHusnian)
O.O.O.Y. Remember, I am not a lawyer (and don’t even know how to spell legal) so you need to talk to your own lawyer to see how these guidelines affect you and what you should do about them.