By Jabez LeBret
With the political circus surrounding the still far off election, the FTC announced a huge announcement that could directly impact your law firm’s marketing. This new rule on native advertising (we will get to what that is in a second) was overshadowed in December by other news.
Many things in life go without clear definitions. Just how many elephants are in a herd or what time does happy hour start? Native advertising is one of these things. To most, all advertising campaigns that originate from you fall under native advertising.
The FTC has given a long list of things they consider native advertising on their website, but for the sake of this article we are going to consider any marketing you create to be considered native advertising.
So what is all the fuss about? The FTC states that any native advertisement must clearly and obviously state that this is an advertisement, and that editorial looking advertisements are skating on thin ice.
Here is an example: If tucked away, in the middle of this post, we were to explain the importance of using nGage chat function on your website, according to the FTC, since our company GNGF has a revenue sharing agreement with nGage for referrals, if we insert this information into the middle of an editorial looking piece we’ve actually moved this entire article under a higher level of scrutiny.
One major area that the FTC is trying to curb is the act of hiding profit driven activities inside posts that appear editorial in nature. The FTC has a clear guideline on how to manage this situation. If this was an editorial piece that was also intended to drive business through a third party relationship, we are required to put in clear letters, up front (not hidden at the bottom) a notice to the reader along the effect of “Advertisement.”
“Content that is intended for pecuniary gain” does not really narrow down when and how you need to disclose something as an advertisement. If you create a blog post to show your knowledge and attract website traffic, in hopes of eventually converting those people into leads, is that not a form of advertisement under these new guidelines?
The FTC did provide an out for this exact problem. You are permitted to create useful content to sell your own services. It is expected the reader is aware enough to know that your content is for both informational and potential monetary gain. The issue would arise if you promoted someone else’s services and that mention was directly tied to specific monetary gain.
Finally it is important to note the placement of your advertising disclaimer. This is not your bar association required advertising disclaimer; the FTC requires you to put the words “Advertisement” or similar on native advertisements. The new guidelines are very clear that your disclaimer cannot be on the destination page.
This means if you run an ad on Facebook directing people to a webpage where you are trying to sell your legal services, you have to add the word “Advertisement” to the Facebook post even if you have an advertising disclaimer on the webpage. This would not apply to a blog post or content piece. This would only apply to an actual ad.
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