Managing a Sweepstakes or Contest on Social Networking?

Managing a Sweepstakes or Contest on Social Networking?

If entry for the opportunity to win a prize requires participants to publish content featuring your company’s services or products, the participants ought to be expected to disclose their posts are pursuant to some contest. Particularly, the Ftc lately established that whenever a company runs a sweepstakes, contest or any other prize promotion on the social networking platform, and also the approach to entering the competition involves posting content concerning the sponsoring company’s services or products (for example by “pinning” photos from the company’s products on Pinterest), the organization is anticipated to inform the participants to create obvious their posts are now being made included in a tournament.


It’s lengthy been recognized that endorsements and testimonials regarding a company’s services or products-if the endorsements are created by consumers, experts or celebrities-may have a effective affect on consumer purchasing decisions and, if done incorrectly, can mislead consumers. Underneath the FTC’s authority to manage commercial advertising under Section 5 from the Federal trade commission Act (which prohibits “unfair or deceitful functions or practices in or affecting commerce,” including advertising of services and products that misleads or will probably mislead consumers), the Federal trade commission maintains some Guides Concerning using Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (the “Guides”). The Guides are printed, partly, to help advertisers using endorsements and testimonials from doing this in a fashion that violates the Federal trade commission Act. The Guides were first issued within the 1970s, and also have been upgraded a couple of occasions through the years, including most lately in ’09.

As noted inside a previous advisory (available here), once the Guides were initially issued, most endorsements and testimonials were disseminated by advertisers through traditional media for example tv and radio commercials, billboards and print ads, and never through the endorsers themselves. In age the web, companies now have the opportunity also to obtain their services and products pointed out, favorably reviewed, or else recognized around the company’s account directly by consumers along with other organizations-through blogs, social networking along with other new media platforms. The FTC’s update from the Guides in ’09 confirmed the old rules still affect endorsements and testimonials made directly with these new media platforms.1

Disclosure of “Material Connections”

The Guides established numerous needs to promote using endorsements or testimonials to avert being deceitful, but probably the most important concepts concerns the disclosure of “material connections” between the organization and also the endorser-that’s, connections that will not reasonably be anticipated through the viewers from the ad. Particularly, the Guides provide:

“When there’s a link between the endorser and also the seller from the marketed product which might materially modify the weight or credibility from the endorsement (i.e., the bond isn’t reasonably expected through the audience), such connection should be fully disclosed.”2

For endorsements made on new media platforms directly by individuals, the Guides claim that getting a payment, a totally free product as well as other financial take advantage of the organization, in return for posting an item review or any other endorsement, is really a “material connection” susceptible to the disclosure requirement. The person endorser may be the party likely to clearly and conspicuously disclose that connection. However, the organization behind the endorsed service or product is anticipated to (i) advise the endorser in advance this connection ought to be disclosed, and (ii) have measures in place to try and monitor postings by such visitors to read the connections are now being disclosed.

Inside a recent “closing letter” sent through the Federal trade commission to Cole Haan, Corporation., the Federal trade commission clarified that prize promotions operate on social networking involving postings by individuals concerning the company’s services or products included in entering such promotions are additionally susceptible to these “material connection” rules.3

Cole Haan’s “Wandering Sole” Contest

Cole Haan ran a tournament on Pinterest in 2013 that guaranteed a $1000 shopping spree towards the champion. To be able to go into the contest, each contestant was needed to produce a Pinterest board entitled “Wandering Sole,” and also to “pin” five photos from the contestant’s favorite Cole Haan footwear from Cole Haan’s Wandering Sole Pinterest board, in addition to five pictures of the contestant’s “favorite places to wander.” The contestants were also needed to make use of the hashtag “#WanderingSole” in every pin.

On March 20, 2014, the Federal trade commission sent instructions to Cole Haan indicating the pins needed to go in the competition on Pinterest for an opportunity to win the $1000 prize were the same as endorsements susceptible to the disclosure needs underneath the Guides. In pertinent part, the Federal trade commission mentioned the following:

“We think that participants’ pins featuring Cole Haan products were endorsements from the Cole Haan products, cheap the pins were incentivized through the chance to win a $1000 shopping spree wouldn’t reasonably be anticipated by consumers who saw the pins. Furthermore, i was concerned that Cole Haan didn’t instruct contestants to label their pins and Pinterest boards to really make it obvious that they pinned Cole Haan products included in a tournament. We don’t think that the ‘#WanderingSole’ hashtag adequately conveyed the financial incentive – a fabric connection – between contestants and Cole Haan.

“Section 5 from the Federal trade commission Act necessitates the disclosure of the material link between an internet marketer as well as an endorser when their relationship isn’t otherwise apparent in the context from the communication which contains the endorsement. Underneath the conditions put down above, entry right into a contest to get a substantial prize in return for endorsing an item through social networking is really a material connection that will not reasonably be anticipated by viewers from the endorsement.”4

The Take-Away

Even though the Federal trade commission didn’t pursue an enforcement action against Cole Haan, it frequently uses letters such as this to transmit a note to industry. The FTC’s message is the fact that asking customers to publish, pin or else publish content on the social networking platform concerning the company’s services or products to be able to enter a sweepstakes, contest or any other prize promotion, without requiring the publish be clearly called being a member of the competition, is problematic under Section 5 from the Federal trade commission Act.

Regrettably, the Federal trade commission didn’t explain within the letter to Cole Haan just how such disclosures should read. This is often a tricky task, especially because of the space-restricted limitations presented by most social networking platforms. Indeed, the Federal trade commission continues to be grappling with this particular issue for several years, including in the “.Com Disclosures” guide, that the Federal trade commission updated in March 2013.5 A principal message in the .Com Disclosures guide was that “disclosures should be conveyed effectively to ensure that consumers will probably notice and understand them regarding the the representations the disclosures modify,” notwithstanding the area-restricted limitations of numerous cellular devices and social networking platforms.

Applying that guidance to disclosures for contests on social networking, it might be that requiring participants simply to utilize a hashtag that names the sweepstakes or contest with every publish-for example “#AcmeWidgetContest2014”- is going to be sufficient to fulfill the FTC’s expected disclosure. When the particular platform can hold an extended disclosure indicating the publish has been made included in entering a specific contest, that will most likely be preferred. Just like many new developments, certain guidelines will probably evolve with time, which we continuously monitor.

Meanwhile, the Federal trade commission has clearly conveyed that the consumer endorsement that could be stimulated by the opportunity to win a prize isn’t not the same as someone endorsement that could be stimulated with a payment of money reely goods. The fabric connection should be disclosed in the two cases. It’s less obvious the way the material connection of an opportunity to win a prize should be disclosed. What’s obvious is the fact that Cole Haan’s attempt for causeing this to be disclosure-which made no mention of the a tournament in order to the Cole Haan brand-unsuccessful the FTC’s standards of transparency for disclosing the fabric connection.

See http://world wide web.pillsburylaw.com/publications/federal trade commission-updates-guidance-on-endorsements-and-testimonials-in-advertising.

16 C.F.R. § 255.5.

See http://world wide web.federal trade commission.gov/system/files/documents/closing_letters/cole-haan-corporation./140320colehaanclosingletter.pdf.


See http://world wide web.federal trade commission.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/press-releases/federal trade commission-staff-revises-online-advertising-disclosure-guidelines/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf.


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