It was originally reported that the FTC would be updating their FAQ for consumers to better identify media practices and endorsements that appear in nature to be anti-consumer. A consumer’s continued correspondence with an FTC official has revealed that YouTube endorsements and standard media endorsements won’t just be par the course for the upcoming update to the FTC’s FAQ, they will also specifically target clandestine endorsements through affiliate links as well.
Sometimes these affiliate links are sprinkled through top lists or advertorials known as native advertising. These kind of endorsement deals aren’t always made apparent to consumers and nearly half of all consumers don’t even know that sometimes a post they just read or clicked into is actually a native advertisement.
Well, according to the FTC official – their name and contact info was requested not to be shared due to not wanting to be bombarded – in charge of the division running the “Operation Full Disclosure” campaign, stated…
“Although we were already planning on updating our Endorsement Guide FAQs to address various issues that have arisen with respect to endorsement-related practices, the fact that we recently received many complaints about undisclosed affiliate links has made it clear that the FAQs need to address that specific practice.”
I did reach out to ask if that specific division of the FTC was tracking whether or not consumer complaints about the issue of disclosure is what led to Gawker’s quick response to have their subsidiaries retroactively disclose affiliate ties in the articles. However, I was notified that there wasn’t a specific answer to share regarding the matter.
Nevertheless, in the original e-mail to the concerned consumer, the FTC official did state…
“In terms of the best way to bring practices of concern to the FTC’s attention, filing separate complaints, as what happened here, is one way. If the consumers you work with want to join together to file a petition, that would be another way. A single email to me, as you did, is another way. Although the pure number of complaints won’t necessarily affect our analysis of whether the FTC Act has been violated, we do strive to be responsive when we see a pattern of complaints in our database, and certainly we saw a pattern here.”
The pattern has likely come from a strong resistance to Gawker Media lately, especially after one of their writers initiated an agenda to “Bring Back Bullying”. This resulted in advertisers like Dyson pulling out from the mega-media outlet, as well as others such as Electronic Arts opting not to take out any new ad campaigns on Gawker websites.
For those hoping that the FTC listens and verifies… they do. The e-mail from the FTC stated…
“...we can’t intervene in individual disputes, we can and often do take action when we see a pattern of complaints about a particular deceptive business practice.”
The full e-mail exchange between the customer and the FTC official can be viewed over on Reddit.
The updated information for consumers regarding endorsement practices and disclosure will be made available in early 2015.
(Main image courtesy of Dan Patterson)