Heads up, creators: The FTC says “#ad” in your video description is not enough disclosure.

By 07/05/2023
Heads up, creators: The FTC says “#ad” in your video description is not enough disclosure.

For the first time since 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has updated its guidelines for endorsements and testimonials–and the updates include making content creators add more “clear and conspicuous” warnings to their sponsored posts.

The FTC previously said including hashtags like “#sponsored” or “#ad” was a good way to disclose sponsored content, but its updated guidelines state that creators simply putting those hashtags in the descriptions of YouTube/TikTok videos (where it can be difficult for a viewer to see them) is not good enough.

“The disclosure should be placed with the endorsement message itself,” the FTC says. “Disclosures are likely to be missed if they appear only on an ABOUT ME or profile page, at the end of posts or videos, or anywhere that requires a person to click MORE.”


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Creators posting photos on platforms like Instagram or Snapchat must “superimpose the disclosure over the picture to make sure viewers have enough time to notice and read it,” the new guidelines say.

If they’re posting videos, “the disclosure should be in the video and not just in the description uploaded with the video.” And by “in the video,” the FTC means with verbal and written (superimposed) disclosures, as “[s]ome viewers may watch without sound and others may not notice superimposed words,” it says.

So a YouTube Shorts creator being sponsored by XYZ Company would need to include: (1) a text disclosure over the video saying something like “This video is sponsored by XYZ Company,” and (2) a verbal disclosure along the same lines. Both, not one or the other.

Creators can additionally choose to put #ad in the video description, but that isn’t necessary if the other disclosures are included.

If they do choose to use hashtags, the FTC’s updated guidelines state that #ad, #sponsored, etcetera shouldn’t be mixed in with a group of other hashtags. It’s become common practice to include a bunch of hashtags at the beginning or end of TikTok descriptions, but the FTC doesn’t want a creator saying something like “#fyp #beauty #ad #mattelipstick,” since it could be harder for viewers to pick up on the #ad there.

From what we can tell, some platforms’ sponsored content labeling tools are already enough to meet these guidelines. YouTube, for example, has a tool for creators where they can superimpose a small black-and-white text box in the lower left corner of sponsored videos. So long as creators make a verbal declaration too, they should be good to go.

The FTC’s update also added language about virtual influencers like Amouranth‘s generative chatbot. Basically, those “influencers” are held the same standards as non-virtual influencers, so someone can’t program AI Amouranth to sell an item without disclosing to her viewers that it’s a sponsored endeavour.

You can see the FTC’s complete update here.

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