In a recent piece on Huffington Post Style, Shameless star, Emmy Rossum talked about her beauty regimen, travel must-haves and some of the beauty tricks she learned on set. In the course of the interview, she name-dropped Restorsea, a skin care company, at least four times, which made me wonder.
Turns out, as of last month, Rossum is the face of Restorsea. She appears on the brand's website and in the brand's ads, as well. So, because the Huffington Post did not publish a disclaimer along with this interview, in which Rossum seemingly endorses Restorsea, all three parties may be in violation of the Federal Trade Commission's Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
The FTC's guidelines state that both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for failure to disclose material connections (think: payments or free products in exchange for representation of the brand) that they share. The Guidelines also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ad campaigns. But who would be liable? Well, it seems the Huffington Post and Restorsea. According to the FTC, its focus is on prosecuting advertisers, not endorsers. So, Rossum may be in the clear.
What does this mean for celebrities and bloggers alike? They must disclose relationships with advertisers when they receive free products for review, compensation, or other consideration, so consumers can accurately decide how much weight to give the endorser's opinions about the product. What exactly is an endorsement? According to the FTC, it is “any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness, or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser.” This extends to blog posts and social media posts, as well. While it has been reported that the FTC has no authority to impose civil penalties, in 2011, it charged Nashville, Tennessee-based Legacy Learning Systems with $250,000 in settlement damages, making it the first ever monetary component for a violation of the blogger endorsement rules.
So, bloggers, to avoid complications and potential fines, disclose any material connections. AND make your disclosures "clear and conspicuous." The FTC suggests using “#Ad”, “Ad:” or “Sponsored” in tweets to be clear that a tweet or link within a tweet includes compensated content, and placing clear disclosures near the beginning of blog posts, as well.