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August 11, 2011

PRSA Submits Comments to FTC Regarding Online Advertising Disclosure Guidelines

PRSA Suggests Transparency and Clarity in Online Brand Disclosures
NEW YORK (August 11, 2011) — The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has filed formal comments with the Federal Trade Commission regarding planned updates to the Commission's  “Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising.” The original guidelines, released in 2000, advise businesses on how federal advertising law applies to advertising, marketing and sales on the Internet.
PRSA's comments are available for download.
In a May 26, 2011, press release, the FTC disclosed its plans to update its online advertising disclosure guidelines to reflect significant changes that have taken place in online media, marketing and advertising and in the way consumers interact with companies online.
“We commend the FTC for its initiative to revise the “Dot Com Disclosures” guidelines,” said Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, PRSA chair and CEO. “As consumers and businesses have eagerly embraced social media and new marketing technologies, unique challenges have arisen for brands that wish to meet the FTC’s guidelines concerning online disclosures. We look forward to working closely with the FTC as it seeks to provide practical and appropriate guidance that allows for continued innovation in online marketing practices, while ensuring consumer protection.”
In its submitted commentary, PRSA noted that its 32,000 professional and student members believe strongly in consumer protections and are seeking clear guidance from the FTC regarding how businesses can appropriately communicate with and market consumers online.
Overview of PRSA’s comments to the FTC:
  • Disclosure of relationships, motivation, compensation and other pertinent factors should be the basis of all forms of marketing and communications, including emerging practices like social media and online contests.
  • Clarity of brand disclosures is paramount. Companies should be transparent in their communications and marketing. Businesses should aid in the decision-making process for consumers, rather than adding to the confusion that can accompany online purchasing decisions.
  • The proliferation of character and text limitations by social networks requires the FTC to examine whether the inclusion of brand disclosures is necessary or practical at every point of social media communications and marketing. Clarity is needed from the FTC regarding how brands can reasonably provide disclosures within character-limited social networks.
  • The FTC Guides on the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials contain parallel regulations and guidance concerning online marketing and communications and should be incorporated, in whole or in parts, within the FTC’s revised “Dot Com Disclosures” guidelines.
  • The FTC should hold a public workshop on these issues to obtain the full input from all stakeholders.
PRSA last filed commentary with the FTC in December 2010 as part of the Commission's  proposed revisions to its “Green Guides” for environmental marketing.

PRSA is the largest professional organization serving the U.S. public relations community. With a mission to “advance the profession and the professional,” PRSA provides news and information, thought leadership, continuing education and networking opportunities; sets standards of professional excellence and ethical conduct; and advocates for the business value of public relations andgreater diversity among public relations professionals. Based in New York, PRSA comprises 112 local Chapters; 14 Professional Interest Sections that focus on specific industries and practice areas; and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which is active at more than 320 colleges and universities.
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