Can’t We All Get Along?: Affiliate Marketing and the FTC

There’s been a lot of fuss around the recent Federal Trade Commission guidelines requiring all online personalities who promote or endorse a brand or product to disclose their relationship clearly and explicitly. Granted, there’s a lot to pay attention to, and the consequences are quite dire if you don’t comply. However, once you’re educated and clear about the law, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t follow the rules. In fact, we can make the case that it’s a good thing. Don’t believe it? Well, read on and decide for yourself.

What Are The Rules?

Let’s take a peek at the official rules before we get too far into how we need to interpret and comply. Read this link before anything; there’s a lot there, but it’s all more or less saying the same thing. Basically, you must be clear about your promotion or endorsement of any brand if you are at all compensated, be it payment, free product, family or friend relationships, or any other kind of favorable treatment related to the post.

Do some affiliates post links solely out of the kindness of their heart and a purely personal affinity for the product? It could happen, but it’s not likely.

Wading through all the guidelines, there’s a small, 3-character disclosure that covers all your bases: #ad. This must be clear (no light fonts, miniscule sizes or any other attempts to make it less noticeable), and also at or near the beginning of your earned social media posts.

When content partners produce blog posts, they need a disclosure statement at the beginning of their post. It usually says something to the effect of “I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are my own.”

These compliancy messages are super important…there’s been more than a few crackdowns on posts that don’t have clear announcements at the top. Gotta scroll down or hit “more…” to see the #ad disclaimer? No good…it has to be right at the top. Trust us on this. Here’s a summary on a lawsuit that the FTC filed on endorsement of a brand without proper disclosure, and who was ultimately responsible. If you don’t click, here’s the summary: the merchant (read: brand who is marketing the product…that’s you!) is wholly responsible for adhering to these rules, and any hired agency or individual affiliates that screw it up are your responsibility. Yeah, that’s a lot of responsibility. But, we’re going to show you how all of this is a good thing, and can actually be a plus. Read on.

Fair Play

Here’s the truth. It used to be a slightly unsavory thing to plug a brand for pay, but things have come a long way. The everyday consumer wants the truth, and the more you give them, the better. Check out this article regarding the way consumers want to be informed…over two-thirds of those surveyed said they want to know the arrangement that their affiliate has with the brand. It’s a much better situation when the reader knows what’s going on.

In this survey, many claimed not to know that the writer was compensated…and a similar number said they didn’t care. Consider that for a minute; wouldn’t you, as a consumer, want to know if your expert was advocating because of true belief or money? Given that this affiliate has likely built their reputation based on their innate knowledge of the products they review, it’s equally as likely that you’d trust their expertise, paid or not. Trust and honesty is their stock in trade; without authentic and trustworthy advice, they’ve got nothing. Recommending a bad product could ruin everything they’ve worked so hard for, and if they’re paying their bills by teaming up with a quality brand, that shouldn’t change their whole ideal.

Summing Up

We all do our due diligence when considering a purchase. There are so many resources available to double- and triple-check reviews on any given thing, and consumers are doing more of this than ever. Knowing this, you should feel confident about using your trusted affiliate partners to get your product and messaging out. If there’s any doubt, enlisting an expert agency to vet and oversee these affiliate partners might be the best choice for you. Remember, these affiliates got to their marketable status for good reason…and, if they’re at that point, following the FTC guidelines shouldn’t be of any worry to them. They need to be trusted across the board, and full disclosure ultimately adds to that. Be clear and honest with what you need and expect from them, and the rest will fall into place.

Do you have any experience working with affiliates and ensuring they comply? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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