Online Contest Legal Rules: FTC Makes New Rule

First: If you’re an online marketer, and you haven’t seen W1A — hunt down one episode (at least) and watch. Next: Why am I talking about an obscure British television show on the website of an online marketing law firm in Arizona?

(Wouldn’t you like to know. So, keep reading!)

The arid-humor spin-off to Twenty Twelve, W1A is a workplace mockumentary (think The Office) set at the BBC.

Subplot B:  The BBC partners with Siobhan Sharpe — of Perfect Curve PR — for a digital re-brand of the iconic media outlet. (Meet the fictional and satirically hysterical Siobhan in the video to your right.) In one scene, the Perfect Curve team deduces that since it’s 2014, “everything” needs to be “app-y,” and that in order for “anything” to be properly “app-y,” it must have as few words and letters as possible.

Well, let’s just say that the latest FTC announcement would short-circuit Siobhan and co., because the commission wants social media marketers — and contest participants — to start using MORE WORDS!

No, let me rephrase that. The Federal Trade Commission now wants businesses to jump through wildfire when disclosing social media contests. Hashtags need not apply.

Does participating in a Pinterest competition constitute a product endorsement? The FTC sure seems to think so.

The FTC recently weighed in on hashtag use and whether it’s a sufficient endorsement disclosure method for social media contests. This is a bit of a shocking stance. After all, what are contest operators supposed to do – especially when many social media platforms don’t physically lend themselves to long disclosures? How can you fit a full contest disclosure in a 140-character tweet?

Seriously, this latest move by the FTC has us scratching our heads and throwing serious side-eye in the direction of Washington, D.C.

Pinterest Contest Leads To FTC Censure For Cole Haan

Shoemaker, Cole Haan, decided to stage a social media contest. The shoe company’s marketers went with a Pinterest plan. Customers posted photos of Cole Haan shoes in various locales (think gnome around the world – but with shoes). The most creative entry won a $1,000 bounty.

Well, let me tell you: the FTC was none too pleased with ole’ Cole Hann’s online contest. In fact, the FTC deemed the shoe company deceptive for not having participants properly disclose the potential to win cash-money for their arguably creepy ghost-foot pics.

What Is The FTC Trying To Do With This Latest Online Contest Decision? Will It Handicap Small Businesses?

The Godfather of all things online marketing, Eric Goldman, explained why this social media contest decision should have us all shaking our heads. “It’s part of the whole phenomenon of the FTC thinking that it can police inauthentic content online,” he succinctly explained. “What is the FTC’s ultimate message to online marketers and contest operators? You’re responsible for your brand’s fans’ online activities?” he concluded.

Bottom Legal Line For Online Contests

If you plan to do an online or social media contest, make sure to instruct participants to post sufficient disclosures with their entries — or YOU may end up paying the price…literally.

Speak With An Online Contest Lawyer

Are you planning an online contest? Wondering if it’s legal? Get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law today to find out. Our firm has successfully helped countless online contest operators – we can do the same for you.

Let’s talk soon about the legalities of your online contest.

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