Consider some the information outlined below as you advertise, endorse and recommend products or services online.

1. Same laws for offline media apply online

The same laws instituted to protect consumers in other traditional media platforms apply to online platforms. The FTC Act’s prohibition of “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” includes advertisements, sales, and marketing done online.

Many rules and guidelines of the FTC are not limited to an advertisement on a particular medium but also apply to a wide variety of online activities.

2. Your original product review or endorsement must carry the disclosure

Advertisers must incorporate applicable and qualifying information into the original claim. They should not have a separate disclosure qualifying the claim.

3. Your disclosures must be clear and conspicuous

A disclosure is clear and conspicuous based on its placement in the ad and how close it is to the claim. The closer the disclosure to the advert, the better. You must also consider the following;

  • Is the disclosure prominent?
  • Is the disclosure avoidable? Will the person reading the advert see the disclosure? If there is a chance they will not, it is not clear and conspicuous.
  • Will the disclosure need to be repeated on different pages of your website?
  • Are audio disclosures presented in loud enough volume and clear enough intonation?
  • Do visual/video disclosure stay in the sight of the user for long enough?
  • Is the language of the disclosure understandable to the target audience?

4. Make your disclosure clear and conspicuous by doing the following:

  • The disclosure must be as close as possible to the advert or the product review that the disclosure addresses. After all, it’s a disclosure for that product review.
  • You need to take into consideration all the platforms and devices on which the disclosure will show. If your advert/review will show on a mobile device then you must find a way to make your disclosure also viewable.Your disclosure may be, for example, incompatible with mobile platforms. If people read your review on their phones, then you must adjust your disclosure.
  • When you have a space constraint on an ad that requires disclosure, you must still find a way to add the disclosure.For example, if you’re tweeting an endorsement, you must, in spite of the character limitation still add a disclosure. Adding a simple “#ad” in your post is an easy way to accomplish this.If you for some reason absolutely cannot add a disclosure, add the disclosure to the page where the ad links.
  • If you are going to hyperlink to your disclosure, there are a few instructions to follow.The link must be clear to see.
    1. The label you give the hyperlink must convey the importance and relevance of the information it links to.
    2. The style with which you write your hyperlinks must be consistent so that your readers will know when there is a link available.
    3. The link should lead straight to the disclosure without any distractions.
    4. Watch your website analytics to see if the hyperlink is effective and adjust if you need to.
  • Design your ads so that the user doesn’t have to scroll to see the disclosure. If scrolling is unavoidable, then use visual cues to point your readers in the direction of the disclosure.
  • Display your disclosure before the consumer can buy the product. For example, put the disclosure before the ‘add to cart’ button. Repeat the disclosure if you have to. Make sure you present the disclosure to the consumer enough times.
  • Repeat the disclosure if the website is lengthy. It is possible for your readers to view a page from the beginning or go straight to the middle. Some will not scroll to the end of the page.If it is possible for a user to read your product review or ad from the middle and get a wrong impression, then you need to repeat the disclosure. You also need to repeat the disclosure if you repeat the ad.
  • If your product review or ad will lead your readers to a physical store, you must show them your disclosure on the ad itself. This is to avoid confusion or deception before they head to the store.
  • Don’t consign your disclaimers and disclosures to your Terms of Use and similar legal agreements.
  • Display the disclosure on your website in a prominent position. The color, font size and graphic design of the disclosure should make it stand out on your site. Do not place any other elements that may distract from the disclosure on it.
  • If you did your ad or product review in audio format, then your disclosure or disclaimer must also be in audio format. You must ensure the audio disclosure is at adequate volume and cadence in the review.
  • Video disclosures should run for a duration long enough for viewers to notice them, watch or read and understand them.
  • Use simple language so that your consumers can have a clear understanding of your disclosure.

5. If you can’t display a clear and conspicuous disclaimer, don’t post the review.

Product disclosures are critical to prevent an advertisement or product review from being deceptive and breaking any of the FTC guidelines. If it’s for some reason not possible to display the disclosure in a clear and conspicuous way, don’t run the ad or post the review.

This means that if a platform or a device will prevent a clear and conspicuous disclosure, then such platforms should not be able to distribute ads.