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FTC Publishes Practical Guidance for Influencers

From beauty gurus on Instagram to product reviewers on YouTube, influencers are big business for brands. However, the intentions aren’t always clear when reading the advice of a celebrity fitness trainer who was paid for his endorsement or watching a video of a fashionista who just received a new wardrobe from the clothing company she is promoting. To help clarify when and how influencers need to make disclosures, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers, a new guide intended to supplement the agency’s Endorsement and Testimonial Guides and 2017 Q&A on endorsements.

The guide and its accompanying video advise on disclosure language, how to disclose in different types of media, and avoiding dishonest claims. They also make important points for companies, such as recognizing that financial relationships are not limited to money and not assuming that social media followers are familiar with a company’s brand relationships.

The FTC has taken action against a number of companies over the last year for inadequate disclosures and posting false reviews, including snack box delivery service Urthbox and supplement manufacturer Nobetes. Just last month, the FTC brought complaints against cosmetics company Sunday Riley for posting fake reviews on and the now-defunct marketing company Devumi for creating fake social media followers.

The FTC continues to provide educational resources to influencers and brands about how to comply with the Endorsement Guides, but does not hesitate to initiate enforcement action where undisclosed endorsements have the potential to deceive consumers. Companies should continue to ensure they and the influencers they work with are familiar with both the Endorsement Guides and Disclosures 101 when working with them on an advertising or marketing campaign.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 315


About this Author

Sheila Millar, Keller Heckman, advertising lawyer, privacy attorney

Sheila A. Millar counsels corporate and association clients on advertising, privacy, product safety, and other public policy and regulatory compliance issues.

Ms. Millar advises clients on an array of advertising and marketing issues.  She represents clients in legislative, rulemaking and self-regulatory actions, advises on claims, and assists in developing and evaluating substantiation for claims. She also has extensive experience in privacy, data security and cybersecurity matters.  She helps clients develop website and app privacy policies,...

Tracy Marshall, Keller Heckman, regulatory attorney, for-profit company lawyer

Tracy Marshall assists clients with a range of business and regulatory matters.

In the business and transactional area, Ms. Marshall advises for-profit and non-profit clients on corporate organization, operations, and governance matters, and assists clients with structuring and negotiating a variety of transactions, including purchase and sale, marketing, outsourcing, and e-commerce agreements.

In the privacy, data security, and advertising areas, she helps clients comply with privacy, data security, and consumer protection laws, including laws governing telemarketing and commercial e-mail messages, contests and sweepstakes, endorsements and testimonials, marketing to children, and data breach notification. Ms. Marshall also helps clients establish best practices for collecting, storing, sharing, and disposing of data, and manage outsourcing arrangements and transborder data flows. In addition, she assists with drafting and implementing internal privacy, data security, and breach notification policies, as well as public privacy policies and website terms and conditions.

As to intellectual property matters, Ms. Marshall helps clients protect their copyrights and trademarks through registration, enforcement actions, and licensing agreements.

She also represents clients in proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission.

Ms. Marshall is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) through the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and a contributing author of Beyond Telecom Law Blog and Consumer Protection Connection.

Education: Washington and Lee University (B.A., 1997); American University, Washington College of Law (J.D., 2002).

Admissions: District of Columbia; Maryland

Memberships: American Bar Association