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ARE YOU FEELING LUCKY, GOOGLE MIGHT NOT BE: FTC Fines Google and iHeart Media $9.4M for Deceptive Pixel 4 Radio Ads

Hi all! Duchess here. Along with keeping up with all things TCPA, I love keeping up with updates the on ever changing marketing and advertising rules set by government agencies and on recent settlements and trends.

Google and iHeart Media may have fallen on the not-so-lucky side of the FTC and multiple state AGs to the purposed tune of 9.4 million dollars . In the statement issued by the FTC, the FTC and state AGs announced that the companies aired nearly 29,000 deceptive endorsements by radio personalities promoting their experience with Google’s Pixel phone – when the paid influencers never used the product

“Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules,” FTC official Samuel Levine pointed out.

Google paid iHeart Media 2.6 million dollars to have their on-air personalities across the country promote their new Pixel 4 phone, specifically the phone’s camera, and ability to take “studio-like photos”. The radio hosts were provided scripts from Google but were also allowed to put their own personal spin on the advertisement. Many make personal claims of taking photos at family gatherings, their children’s football games or school plays. Capturing all those precious memories to reflect back on, the only problem is the on-air personalities were NEVER provided Google Pixel 4 phones. To be fair, 5 phones were sent to iHeart Media compared to the 43 personalities that promoted the phone and the abilities of the camera!

We have all seen posts on social media, heard your favorite radio DJ or podcast host give a product shout-out. These ads come off as them sharing with you their favorite products and seem totally harmless. What you may not always know is that more than likely these people or companies are being paid or compensated to promote these products to their listeners or followers. Products they may have never used but want you to spend your hard-earned money on.

You may recall in late 2021 the FTC put several hundred companies on notice about the use of fake reviews and flimsy endorsements that are not telling the complete story to consumers at large.  The trend continues with companies being called to task for this type of advertising practice, Google and iHeart Media happen to be the latest to be caught in the crosshairs.

YIKES.

While the FTC endorsement guidance is not new, it’s been in place for over forty years, and the advertising landscape has evolved. Recognizing that advertising practices have changed, moving to social media and online presence, the FTC has issued two helpful guides in the last year for marketers and websites host, laying out best practices and standards for presenting consumers with truthful and accurate advertising of products and or services.

With the busy holiday buying season upon us, make sure you have in place policies and procedures around testimonials and endorsement practices for your company. Or you may find yourself feeling not so lucky in the new year.

© 2023 Troutman FirmNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 333
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About this Author

Angelika Munger TCPA Paralegal
Paralegal

Angelika Munger is the Duchess of TCPAWorld and a Paralegal at the Troutman Firm. With a knowledgeable background in marketing compliance, state specific regulations and TCPA.

When she is not providing support to her amazing team members, you can find her hiking, paddle boarding and enjoying time with her family.

(949) 350-3663
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