Fashionista has unfortunately never been sent the latest “it” bag or asked to endorse any of the must-have items of the season (although if Anya Hindmarch is reading this……!). Thankfully, if she had, Fashionista would have known that (thanks to her friends in the right places) the UK has long required that, where the content of any editiorial has been paid for (either in cash or in kind), that this is made clear in the content and that failure to do so is punishable by up to two years in prison.
It seems that the U.S is now following suit and the topic has been brought to the fore by the recent crackdown on deceptive marketing practices by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who have amended their guidance on endorsements and testimonials. From 1 December 2009, the FTC has stated that “…material connections” (sometimes payment or products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed.”
The revised guidelines (which are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act and are not binding law themselves) specify that whilst decisions will be reached on a case by case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. As reported therefore American bloggers will as a result be required to declare any interest in the products they review or discuss on their blogs.
In addition, under the revised guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.
Fashionista has long been a sucker for a celebrity endorsed product – if Jennifer Anniston tells her that a certain shampoo makes her locks all smooth and shiny then of course Fashionista is going to buy it – who doesn’t want hair like Jens?! Celebrities may however have to take more care in future as the guidelines extend to claims made by celebrities which imply they have personal experience of a product and could now mean that the celebrity is personally liable for any misrepresentation. Celebrities will also have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.
Fashionista hopes that John Mayer is paying attention and will therefore take care when endorsing products on Twitter!