FTC urges mobile marketers not to cut corners when designing around small screens
By Chantal Tode
March 14, 2013
While mobile marketers frequently find themselves challenged when it comes to telling a compelling story on mobile devices, this is no excuse for leaving the necessary disclosures, according to new guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC this week released updated guidelines for online advertising disclosures that take into account the expanding use of smartphones and the rise of social media marketing. However, with advertisers urged to make sure hyperlinks are labeled properly and not to use pop-ups for disclosures, some mobile marketers may find themselves scrambling to adjust.
“Most advertisers aren’t trying to hide disclosures from their customers,” said Dave Martin, senior vice president of media at Ignited, El Segundo, CA. “The issue is really one of real estate.
“In most cases there simply isn’t enough room in an ad or on a landing page to display all the required information,” he said. “So the links and pop-ups are solutions to the problem of ‘share of screen.’
“There are, however, some advertisers who see disclosures as just another step in the conversion process that often hurts overall conversion rates, and their desire to make this step as skippable as possible has led to the need for regulation.”
Marketers recognize the need to make mobile interactions as smooth and seamless as possible or else risk losing a consumer who gets frustrated or bored. As a result, some view disclosures as getting in the way of delivering a strong user experience.
The goal of the FTC, with the revised guidelines, is to make sure marketers understand the need to make disclosures clear and conspicuous, even on smaller mobile screens, to avoid deception. It is the latest example of how regulators are paying more attention to mobile marketing these days.
Given the small screen sizes on mobile coupled with the need to include disclosures is causing some marketers to be creative in how they deliver this information, such as offering a small reward for users who make it past the disclosure.
“Advertisers still see mobile and digital, for the most part, as transactional mediums, with the goal of creating some action using their ads,” Mr. Martin said. “That action might be an email submission, a video view, signing up for a newsletter, becoming a fan or redeeming an offer.
“The process of getting someone to take that action needs to be as smooth and seamless as possible, and long disclosures can create a massive speed bump in the process of pushing consumers to act,” he said.
“But advertisers with good intentions are definitely getting creative by making disclosures more interesting and more digestible, as well as giving small rewards to consumers who make it past the speed bump.”
The revised guidelines state that when a disclosure is needed to prevent an online ad from being deceptive or unfair, marketers must make sure that the disclosure is clear and conspicuous on all devices and platforms that consumers may use to view the ad.
The guidelines also state that if the disclosure cannot be made clearly or conspicuously on a device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used.
Additionally, the FTC advises marketers to avoid conveying disclosures through pop-ups as these are often blocked.
The revised guidelines also state that any disclosures should be as close as possible to the relevant claim. Previously, the guidelines stated advertisers should place disclosures "near, and when possible on the same screen,” as the relevant ad claim.
Hyperlinks are addressed, with the FTC calling for labeling to be as specific as possible. Additionally, advertisers are cautioned to consider how hyperlinks function on various programs and devices.
“The issue is people and companies are getting paid to post messages on Twitter and Facebook, but they don't disclose it,” said Marc Poirier, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Acquisio, Brossard, Canada. “Of course this is problematic.
“Because the nature of Twitter is limited to 140 characters, I believe the only viable solution would be to include a standard hashtag at the beginning of the message, something like 'sponsored message,'" he said.
“This would ensure compliance with FTC rules.”
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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Comments on "FTC urges mobile marketers not to cut corners when designing around small screens"
Gabriel Di says:
March 20, 2013 at 9:06am