FTC Updates Guidance for Mobile Ad Disclosures

Last recommendation was issued before Twitter, Facebook and apps existed

At long last, the Federal Trade Commission released updates to what is known as the Dot-Com Disclosures, guidance for how marketers can make ad disclosures clear and conspicuous across all platforms.

The last time the agency released guidelines for how federal law applies to marketing on the Internet was in 2000 BT, BF, BA—that is, before Twitter, before Facebook and before apps took over mobile devices.

While the same principles of the 2000 guidance apply as much to mobile as online, marketers might find it difficult, given the format or the smaller size of screens to make sure disclosures, like endorsements, promotions or other qualifications to marketing claims are “clear and conspicuous.”

As with the original guidance, the FTC’s update stresses that no matter the screen size or the platform, clear and conspicuous ad disclosures should be as close to the relevant claim as possible. If not, the ad could be found to be deceptive or unfair. “If the disclosure cannot be made clearly and conspicuously on a device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used,” the FTC said in a statement.

In the original guidance, the FTC advised advertisers to place disclosures either near or on the same screen as the claim. Taking into account the ubiquity of smaller screens, the new updates are more flexible, allowing advertisers to make sure disclosures are “as close as possible” to the ad claim.

The updated Dot-Com Disclosures also advise advertisers to avoid using hyperlinks for disclosures that involve product cost or certain health and safety issues. If marketers use hyperlinks, they should be specifically labeled and take into account how the links might perform on different devices.

For space-constrained ads, marketers must still provide proper disclosure and should avoid conveying disclosures through pop-ups because they are often blocked, the FTC said.

Updates to the Dot-Com Disclosures were based on three public comment periods and a public workshop last May.