Let’s talk about those FTC guidelines.

We all know about the new FTC guidelines that were released in September. We also know that there is a ton of confusion floating around about what they really mean and who they apply to. The good news is that Obviously has read and studied the entire FTC Endorsement Guidelines so you don’t have to. (You’re very welcome.)  We’re going to let you in on the basics that you need to know to stay in the clear.

First and foremost: Anyone who is forming relationships with brands and posting about their products has to disclose those relationships in their posts -- and that really does mean you. For every collaboration, every time.  It’s the law, but it’s also just the right thing to do.  At the end of the day it’s about being honest.

Here are answers to some common questions we get about disclosures.

Is there a certain wording I have to use to disclose?

Actually, no.  Here at Obviously we prefer to use #ad or #sponsored just because they are super clear and really can’t be misinterpreted.  Legally, though, the only rule is that the disclosure be up front and unavoidable.  That means no burying #spons in a sea of other tags where it’s easily missed or placing the disclosure in the comments where it will vanish from view.  It also means that it’s not enough to just tag a brand without mentioning the relationship.  On the other hand, it’s totally fine to say “So excited to be partnering with Sephora…” or “Google sent me this free Pixel and I’m obsessed…”  A good rule of thumb is this: is your goal for your followers to know about the relationship?  If the answer is yes, you’re probably in the clear.  If your goal is to just pass the guidelines and hope your followers don’t notice, there’s a good chance you’re not passing the guidelines at all.

If I’m not getting paid, is it still a sponsorship?

Yes.  At Obviously, many of our projects are true collaborations, rather than paid advertising campaigns.  This means we send out a lot of free product for influencers to post about. Sometimes, influencers tell us that they do not want to disclose relationships because they are not being paid.  Unfortunately, this just isn’t how it works. The FTC makes it very clear that free product = sponsored post. SNS.

But the fact that the product is free doesn’t affect my review. Why should I disclose?

We know that.  You’re an honest person, and you wouldn’t promote a brand you don’t love. Same goes for us! We wouldn’t work with you if we didn’t think that was the case.  But it’s not about whether the free stuff affects your promotion, it’s about whether another person might think the free stuff affects your promotion.  Your followers have a right to any information that could impact their decision to purchase something.  Put yourself in your their shoes -- you’d want to know too.  It’s all about that Golden Rule.

But this is going to hurt my engagement so much!

The good news is, it’s really not. The Forbes Agency Council did a great study comparing engagement in disclosed vs. undisclosed posts.  The disclosed posts had normal to high engagement, while sponsored posts that were not disclosed had low engagement or even backlash.  People are smart; they can tell if something is sponsored.  And dishonesty is a lot more annoying than a little #ad.  

Bottom Line: The best way to appear authentic is to be authentic. You’re getting sponsored. You’re excited!  Tell your followers you’re excited.  They will be too.


Just reppin those sources:

“The FTC's Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking.” Federal Trade Commission, 25 Oct. 2017, www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking.

“Getting Into Influencer Marketing? 15 Important Things To Know About The New FTC Guidelines.” Forbes, 29 Nov. 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/11/29/getting-into-influencer-marketing-15-important-things-to-know-about-the-new-ftc-guidelines/amp/