FTC Chair Outlines Priorities At Advertiser Confab

Making an analogy to New Year's resolutions, FTC chair Deborah Platt Majoras offered four resolutions for marketers yesterday:

  • Trim the fat from marketing to kids

  • Don't consume empty calories; i.e., don't make unsupported claims

  • Don't spy on the consumer

  • Exercise the machine of self-regulation

    The chairman commended the food and beverage industry for creating new initiatives that will strengthen the guidelines of marketing to children, and said she hopes they will "prompt companies to develop healthy alternatives and to use creative efforts to promote them," adding that "advertising is a very powerful tool."

    Platt Majoras, speaking at the ANA advertising law conference, spoke of ways the regulatory agency has dealt with marketers who use consumers to endorse a product. The FTC's resulting rule on that segment of advertising is that a consumer must represent what average consumers will be able to achieve.

    As for the Internet, she called on marketers to understand how their advertising on the Web is reaching consumers, ask for consumers' consent to receive the ads, monitor how they receive them, and give them an opportunity to uninstall anything they don't want on their hard drives.



    "We can't let consumers lose faith in this tremendous resource," she said. She also asked American marketers to prove critics of self-regulation wrong. "Many people don't know about it--or worse, don't believe it works," she said. The cooperation of broadcasters is critical, since the threat of a refusal to air something may work better than regulation. "Media participation will ensure success."

    "[American consumers] are a demanding lot," she said. "We want things faster and we have less tolerance for things taking time. Consumer demands are setting the course."

    The FTC, said Platt Majoras, is creating a report on how technology will affect consumerism in the next 10 years. Among the topics it will address: "How will consumers' lives change? How will the move from mass marketing to micro marketing affect consumerism?" That report is due out in the spring.

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