Advertising vs. Non-Promotion. FTC Warns About Blurring the Line

spamThe Federal Trade Commission [FTC] has issued a Commission Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements [FTC Statement].  The subject of the FTC Statement is advertising disguised to look like something else- i.e. educational information or customer reviews.


The subject is not new as the FTC points out.  The FTC has issued guidance and taken action against business dating back to the 1960’s, 70’s and ‘80s on the similar basis.  However, the FTC expressed the compulsion to issue the Statement pointing out changes and variations in the new the social media and technology realms such as videos and infographics.

Here are some examples of advertising from the FTC statement.

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How do you know if an advertisement is considered deceptive by the FTC? The FTC’s answer is a little ambiguous:

In determining whether an advertisement, including its format, misleads consumers, the Commission considers the overall ‘net impression’ it conveys.  Any qualifying information necessary to prevent deception must be disclosed prominently and unambiguously to overcome any misleading impression created.

It is an ‘I know when I see it’ test, which is not very comforting or helpful.  However, there are somethings the FTC Statement suggests to lessen the likelihood that your advertising will be considered deceptive.  Here are their suggestions:

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