Ad Agency Online Disclosure

Before the holidays, there was a lot of industry chatter about the FTC ruling involving Deustch LA and Sony.  With so many other industry stories since then, the furor seems to have died down, but be assured that the FTC attention to this matter has not.  This means that if you are an agency and any of your employees chose to promote a client’s product or service or new ad, they must disclose the agency/client relationship.  It could be as simple as saying something like “our agency did this great work for Client X” or “our client is introducing the latest thingy and I want to share it.”  You’ll want your legal team to weigh in on the right words, but this is also a communication strategy issue. You can’t promise to start or aid the “let’s make it viral” effort without comprehending the disclosure requirements.

In the Deutsch case, the FTC also said that the agency “knew or should have known” about “misleading claims” that Sony was making.  This means that the language you use when you share content needs to be as carefully considered–and probably reviewed by legal– as your ad copy.

If your agency wants to promote its own work– and with industry awards coming up and year-end awards being announced, those shares are everywhere–disclosure rules also apply.  Your employees need to state that they are sharing on behalf of their employer; they need to be clear that they are not just a citizen sharing something they like.

And if you’re a client, know that the FTC generally holds you, not your agency or the bloggers talking about you, responsible for disclosure.  You need to make sure that the due diligence for checking on this is built into your implementation.

Part of the currency of using social media is to be relevant and fast.  Understanding the disclosure requirements in advance will help you plan and react accordingly.

Wally Snyder

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Executive Director, Institute for Advertising Ethics

Linda Thomas Brooks

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Advisory Council, Institute for Advertising Ethics

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