Friday, October 09, 2009


So if you blog, by now you may have heard about the new FTC Guidelines governing disclosure of payments or non-payments in the case of product endorsements or reviews.

This quote comes from an article about the new regulations, which can impose fines on those who break the rules:

"We’re acting to ensure that bloggers don’t create a bias in the consumer decision-making process,” said Mary Engle, acting deputy director for the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers need to know that what they’re reading is technically an advertisement.”

This would be noble if it wasn't so half-assed. Anyone been surfing the web lately? Where is the FTC in relation to those insipid ads you see all over the place - Obama asks Moms to Return to School!, Local Mom loses 47 pounds following This One Old Rule, I earn $77/hr while I sleep! Come on - that's NOT false advertising? Yet it remains.

Have you ever caught one of those infomercials on TV that consist of a string of glowing testimonials by people ‘just like you and me’ who have become overnight millionaires using those get rich quick schemes where they sell household products, or they distribute reports or they buy and sell real estate or the most nebulous one – ‘they place ads’ and the money rolls in and now than can retire at 35 and you can too? Seriously. NOT false advertising?? Come on. Yet they remain.

Isn't the whole point of advertising to create a bias in the consumer decision-making process? If advertising wasn’t mostly false [let’s face it] would those Whoppers really look so good on TV? Take one out of the box, they’re not as juicy and delicious in real life as they appear on the screen. Is your candy bar really as rich and creamy as it looks in the commercial? Or is it a bit crumbly and sickeningly sweet? [Candy IS evil, remember.] Tell me again how those models in VOGUE are NOT airbrushed. Their skin is naturally flawless, their eyes are naturally brilliant sapphire blue and [well this part is true] they really ARE a size zero because they don’t eat [candy OR Whoppers]. Notice how the FTC doesn’t seem to be doing anything about those advertisements.

Why do my kids want the latest video game? Because the commercials make it look like a full-blown 3-D interactive mind-blowing adventure they can have right in their own living room. Not because it’s actually really frustrating and impossible to win. Why do I want to go see that great new comedy that just came out? Because the trailer shows a sampling of the hilarious, madcap entertainment my $11.00 can buy me. Not because those 30 seconds of trailer represent the only 30 seconds of the movie that are worth watching.

In the meantime, I can be handed a free copy of a book written by my best friend, I can read it, love it and write a glowing review [that's maybe a bit biased because hey, this is my friend] and suddenly I'm up for a fine if I don't disclose that I got the book for free?

Someone, anyone, anywhere, I beg you. Give me a break. Consumers need a lot more protection, but not from rabid bloggers.

* And please note my new disclaimer in the side bar. I do not endorse or recommend any of the products or services mentioned in this blog article and I have received none of them for free. Nor would I want to.


Cora Zane said...

The new "regulations" tick me off. Plain and simple, the FTC apparently needs money, and they are going after the people easiest to FIND.

At the same time, I think the FTC is also setting itself up for a nasty freedom of speech lawsuit. I can see why it would be a problem to post an opinion on a webpage or blog **designed** for reviews, but on a personal blog? If I buy a book and say it sucks, or say it's great, that's my right to do so.

Whatever the case, I can see this turning into a big ol' nasty mess online. :/

Jen said...

OMG your disclaimer had me ROLLING!

I can't even IMAGINE the manpower this will take. Maybe it's a stimulus thing?

Jen said...

OMG your disclaimer had me ROLLING!

I can't even IMAGINE the manpower this will take. Maybe it's a stimulus thing?

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Cora, I think they dropped the ball with the rules - I really think the point is to discourage paid bloggers from making advertisements look like true testimonials about products, but it boils down to every review out there will look like a biased promotion once someone admits they received the product for free. They're basically saying, if someone hands you a free book, a free bar of soap, whatever, anything you say about it must therefore be biased, which such a load of crap.

Jen, that disclaimer is toned down from my original draft. I censored myself a bit for the sake of propriety. LOL.