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FTC Endorsement Guidelines and Online Influencers


With more and more people making their living through digital methods, the world of online-based businesses is continually expanding. A number of these online businesses are founded by people referred to as online influencers. These are people who are YouTube stars, brand ambassadors, bloggers, writers, authors, social media personalities, and more. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, has a specific set of rules that govern some of these business activities.

Need to Disclose Relationships

One of the biggest rules set forth by the FTC is the need to disclose relationships between brands and influencers. The guidelines state that if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser, it must be disclosed in whatever is being disseminated online. This may run the gamut from a blog post to a Facebook or Instagram post, a Tweet, or an online video. A “material connection” is defined as a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of a free product. And, while we’re discussing the FTC guidelines as they relate to online influencers, it also extends to marketers and marketing agencies.

FTC Endorsement Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission published the guide to help promote truth in advertising. They represent administrative interpretations of laws enforced by the FTC. Specifically, they address Section 5 of the FTC Act (15 U.S.C. 45) and the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. Failure to abide by these voluntary rules could result in corrective action by the Commission or a lawsuit from a misled consumer. If you’re an online influencer and run a digital media business, it’s important to hire a knowledgeable Washington D.C. business law firm to represent your interests and ensure you are not running afoul of these or any other laws governing online businesses.

What are Endorsements under FTC Guidelines

Under the FTC guidelines, an advertising message could be verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness, or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or name of an organization that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than sponsoring advertiser. The party who is making these statements is deemed the endorser and could be a person, group, or the business itself.

Tips and Examples from the FTC

The FTC website is a great starting point to get a general idea of what the guidelines cover and tips to ensure you aren’t violating these disclosure rules. Some important tips include:

  • Don’t assume people automatically know you have a relationship with the advertiser or that you have received any consideration for your endorsement.
  • Although some social media platforms, like Instagram, are starting to offer tools to disclose, don’t solely rely on those tools.
  • Don’t use ambiguous hashtags like #spon, #sp, or #ambassador
  • Don’t place disclosures after the “click more” link or far down in a post.

Retaining a Washington D.C. Business Lawyer

If you run a digital media business, it’s important you have a good business lawyer in Washington D.C. Contact the team at Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. at 202-362-5900 to schedule a consultation to ensure you and your business are adequately protected. Our knowledgeable team has experience in everything from business contracts to intellectual property matters.



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