When the FTC issued its revised Endorsement Guides, there was much anguish in the blogosphere about the newfound guidance on blogging and the FTC’s enforcement intentions in this regard. The Agency, however, was quick to offer some reassurance that it was not going to throw stay at home blogging mom’s or blogging teenage gamers in jail (see one of our previous postings here). A recent closing letter sent to Hyundai serves as both a reminder that the worst fears in the blogospheres have not come to pass and what steps a company can proactively take to stay out of trouble with the Agency if, despite all precautions, there is a potential Section 5 problem.
The FTC’s inquiry focused on whether bloggers had been given gift certificates as an inducement to include links to Hyundai videos or comment on upcoming Super Bowl ads and were specifically told not to disclose this information (in violation of the Endorsement Guides).
The FTC decided not to recommend an enforcement action. Their decision was influenced in part by steps Hyundai had taken that others might be wise to take as well.
- First, the incentives were provided by a rogue individual working for a media firm hired to conduct the campaign. Although Hyundai could have been held responsible for the actions of those working for them, Hyundai had an established social media policy that called for bloggers to disclose the receipt of any compensation. (The media firm had one as well.)
- Second, when the media firm learned of the misconduct, it took prompt action to address it. We don’t know whether that was before or after the FTC initiated its investigation, but, based upon our prior experience, the FTC likely gave them credit for taking remedial action before the Commission came calling.
So, as this case demonstrates, a few simple steps can sometimes save you from a much bigger problem.
And just to clear up any confusion, Hyundai did not offer us gift certificates, free cars or super bowl tickets (or anything else) to blog about their case.