Federal Regulators say the same legal standards that applied to those old-skool print ads also apply online — even to short-form media like Facebook and Twitter.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Whether it is including the average effectiveness of a weight-loss shake or noting that a celebrity was paid to push a product in a Twitter post, marketing company need to apply the same standards to online ads as they long have to older media, according to guidelines released Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission.

That means making room for full disclosure even in a 140-character tweet on Twitter.

The agency suggested that marketers could flag Twitter ads by including “Ad:” (three characters) at the beginning of the post or the word “sponsored” (nine characters).


The FTC said marketers need to be conscious of the location of disclosures and ensure that users can still see them easily on a smartphone.

If a company can’t find a way to make its disclosure fit the constraints of social or mobile ad, it needs to change the ad copy so that it doesn’t require a disclosure, the agency said, making that point explicit for the first time.

Disclosures must be clear enough that they aren’t “misleading a significant minority of reasonable consumers,” the FTC said.

The Journal offers up an example or two (apparently provided by the FTC), but it’s mostly common sense stuff. Seems only logical to me (and I’m touchy about misleading advertising), but I could easily envision an instance when a copywriter might feel pressured to fudge disclosure “just this once.”

Pointing out the FTC thinks that’s a bad idea should help you avoid doing something stupid. And yeah, lest we forget, it’s the ethical thing to do.

Keep writing (and disclosing), Tom Chandler