FTC Updates Guidelines For Ads on Social Media and Mobile Devices

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

ftc-rules-mobile-advertisingThe FTC, or Federal Trade Commission, is tasked with the job of regulating the business practices of corporations to ensure the best interest of the consumer. That means making sure that advertising is not deceptive, and that consumers are given every chance to be fully educated before making a purchase and are not manipulated by any one company into spending their money unwisely.

Companies have no choice but to follow the rules set by the FTC when creating their marketing campaigns. This is why television commercials are marked with disclaimers and online advertisements have fine print at the bottom of the page. Deceptive advertisements are punishable by the FTC, and companies need to do their part to ensure they are complying with the federal guidelines. Until recently, the world of mobile marketing has been somewhat free of these restrictions.

New Rules for Mobile Marketing

The new FTC rules are a response to the rise of mobile technology. More and more people are using their mobile devices as their premier method of accessing the internet. Phone and tablet apps like Facebook, Twitter and news networks have taken advantage of this shift by tailoring their content and appearance to be more ideal for the mobile user. In doing this, they also opened the door for online advertisements to make the jump from the computer screen to the four-inch touch screen, and these advertisements were often flying under the radar of the FTC.

In 2000, the FTC ruled that advertisers must place disclaimers on potentially manipulative ads as close as possible to the posted advertisement.  This often meant the same page as the ad, or in the bottom of a pop-up. With the larger computer screen this is much easier to accomplish, but the phone has limited space. Character restrictions make lengthy disclaimers difficult, which severely limits the ability for companies to use common advertising practices. Creating a link to a page that will fully disclose any further information about a product is not enough. At a minimum, advertisements must make themselves clearly known by stating that they are an “AD” plain and clear on the marketing banner.

The best way to work around the new FTC guidelines is to make advertisements as clear and honest as possible. Using deceptive phrasing or manipulative marketing practices will be picked up as conspicuous and can lead to trouble. The world of mobile marketing is a big one, and there are plenty of advertising opportunities still there. Companies will now need to be more upfront and concise in their marketing tactics, but that does not mean the ads need to come down. Working within these guidelines will create the best experience for the user and consumer, and that is in the best interest of all involved.


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