FTC Warns Media Brands To Disclose Sponsorships

When it comes to fake news, consider those fake news-adjacent areas that can give users, viewers, and business partners some headaches in searching for clarity  -- a nasty byproduct of a free-thinking, free market society.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission sent out a number of warning letters to so-called social media-influencers-- as a reminder of the need to disclose material sponsorship connections in social-media promotions and endorsements.



This dovetails into ongoing efforts regarding native advertising/content-marketing issues brand advertisers have had in regards to labeling. Call some content “Sponsored Content” or “Paid Advertising” or other variations on a theme. All are necessary to give consumers a complete picture. Maybe.

Such moves come as attention and engagement with TV and media news consumption heightens -- especially now. The Trump Administration is full of some facts, half-facts, alternative facts, and maybe even fat facts looking to lose some weight.

It's not just one-sided.

Given the power of  "influencers,” the FTC has laid responsibility not just on those celebrity endorsers but to marketers paying for these social-media promotions.

It maybe natural and obvious to separate fake news from real news, as well as advertising/promotions disguised as off-the-cuff spiels from influencers. But will it be enough? Consumers probably will still be manipulated -- even those who work hard in sifting fact from fiction.

On TV, we have a little better consumer transparency. The large part of big consumer brand exposure still comes in TV commercials -- residing in one- to three-minute long commercial pods. All that signals -- easily -- to the TV consumer that a brand pitch coming.

True, there is much more branded entertainment messaging inside content, in programming than ever before -- stuff that isn’t so obvious. But the way TV is structured this stuff will always yield -- for the near term -- a smaller pool of impressions.

Now while brands typically disclose their in-show sponsorships at the end of a program during the title credits, maybe there needs to be more transparency here -- at the point of contact.

That Toyota Camry rolling through a USA Network drama series -- with car video lasting just a second or so too long -- might need more obvious on-air graphics at the point of video viewability.

Maybe the FTC will have more letters to send.

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