FTC Guidelines - When It Comes to Celebrity Endorsements Honesty is ALWAYS the Best Policy

Having a recommendation for your product is a well-established marketing bonus for building your brand. If someone uses your product or service, and tells people about it, word of mouth and peer review provides a great basis for people to be reassured enough to try it themselves.

The only thing better than a peer review to turn consumer heads is a celebrity endorsement. If they didn’t work, companies wouldn’t pay millions of pounds to have football players advertising their brand of razors. But they do work. With celebrities becoming the role models of our society, young people especially feel that mimicking their behaviour is the path to success; and part of imitating this behaviour is purchasing celebrity-endorsed products.

With this in mind, having a familiar sitcom face telling the world your shoe brand is ‘totally awesome’ is going to bode well for your sales. There’s nothing people trust more than an athlete selling sneakers.

However, with FTC providing revisions of their endorsement guidelines, there are certain rules you now have to be aware of when stepping into celebrity endorsement territory. It’s not as simple as asking Mariah Carey to ‘slip in a good word’ on a morning TV talk show any more.

So what’s so complicated about it? Say, you’ve found someone who is prepared to throw you a lifeline of celebrity review and you want to take it; what do you need to bear in mind under the new FTC revisions?

Honesty is ALWAYS the Best Policy

If you have found a celebrity to validate how great your new mascara is, and they aren’t in agreement, you can’t use them. With a celebrity endorsed recommendation, the public are looking for an honest review. No-one wants to know that Jennifer Lopez is lying through her teeth, or that underneath the Photoshop she’s actually allergic.

If you want to use a celebrity to endorse your product, you need to ensure that the opinion they are portraying is factual, and that they will continue to have that opinion for the entirety of the time the endorsement is being used. If you have intended to run a TV commercial for 6 months, and 3 months down the line the celebrity no longer likes your product and makes that clear; the commercial has to be removed from the television.

It’s Real Life, Not Broadway

There’s no ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ or clicky red slippers for Dorothy. If your shoes don’t improve the wearer’s posture, don’t make your celebrity endorser say that in their script. If they lie, you are held accountable, whether it’s scripted by you or not.

Additionally, unlike before, celebrities now have to be aware of the marketing process they are embroiled in. If they are endorsing a product that is supposed to provide particular results but doesn’t, and they are witness repeatedly to the fact it doesn’t provide said results, they are not to carry on the endorsement. The FTC states that the “celebrity could be liable for the deceptive statement about the product and the advertiser could be liable for misrepresentations made through the endorsement.” Nobody wants to have to involve a
criminal law attorney, so you should respect the FTC’s guidelines.

One of the stipulations of the FTC is that any claims made within advertising or in an endorsement need to be provable. If there is claim to a scientific process which actually has no substance to it whatsoever, and this is later found out, the FTC will fine your company and can terminate your business.

Claim Your Claim

One of the main issues that has arisen from the alterations to the FTC guidelines is the stipulations that endorsers and reviewers who are being paid in money or goods for their recommendation, need to declare this connection with the company to the public. The point here is that the consumer has a right to know if the review has been influenced in any way, so that they can draw their own conclusions regarding the validity of the review fairly.

The FTC, however, does distinguish between an obvious contractual endorsement whereby the recommender would obviously have some gain such as a celebrity representing a product in a TV commercial, and a review on a forum, which could just be a happy customer but is instead a blogger who has received free goods.

The FTC states that in the case of the contract being obvious, such as TV commercial, the celebrity does not need to disclose the benefits of the arrangement. However, in cases where it is unclear if the recommendation is genuine or not, such as a celebrity mentioning a particular brand on a talk show, any connections MUST be declared in this case. That way, there can be no misunderstanding of whether the celebrity is endorsing the product for their own satisfaction or to fulfil a contract.

About the Author:

Although Mark Harris is mainly a freelance writer who works from the comfort of his own home in White Rock, BC, Canada, he also considers himself a successful Internet marketer. He believes that following the rules and regulations helps in the long run, and although he now has a firm grasp on where he should be directing his marketing to avoid any run ins with the FTC, he finds comfort in knowing there are lawyers out there like those from, who would be able to help if he ever needed to seek out legal advice.

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