Friday, December 4, 2009

Disclaimers, FTC (US) Guidelines

Ads are everywhere. On sites where one thinks one can avoid them. Why does Oprah have them? Really. A whole new industry has sprung up around this. There is a web site that promotes the "Secrets of advertising to seniors". There are ads for sites that promote advertising and try to get you to sign up! There are ads for housing, home care, pharmaceuticals, and assistance with ADLs. Now, there is a new target audience. Family members, stressed with caring for ailing parents are encouraged to buy electronic devices to monitor their parents, much like interactive baby monitors. I think we are lulled into a false sense of security. Our failing seniors want adult care, the human touch, and caring caregivers who will provide them with social interaction.

I take a great deal of pride in researching this blog. I have counselled many seniors around the issues of health care advertising aimed at seniors. I am increasingly appalled by the number, the extent and the range of advertising and propoganda, and blatant manipulation of seniors as businesses, and website managers, try to earn a buck.

The US, in its infinite wisdom, has instituted new guidelines, rules and regs around bloggers. Praise Be! 
Perhaps it is time that Canada looks at the same issue.
The Canadian Association of Retired Persons (affiliated with the American AARP site - with BIG bucks and research dollars) has tons of ads, with little teeny articles that provide little information, and little credibility. The Vancouver-based: Association for Active Aging Professional, charges big bucks to sign up for their organization. Hundreds of dollars to keep abreast of current issues - logically a Canadian government responsibility, free of cost and supported by those committed to helping us all age gracefully. 

The revised US FTC Guidelines state that:
  • Bloggers and online word-of-mouth marketers are required to disclose any material connection to a company
  • When reviewing the company’s products or services (failure to disclose any payment or receipt of free product from an advertiser or someone acting on their behalf could expose you to liability);
  • Both advertisers and endorsers can be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement;
  • Advertisements containing consumer endorsements, or testimonials, must disclose what results a reasonable consumer could expect from the product and can no longer rely on a disclaimer that “results may vary”;
This, of course, applies to book reviews, as well. 

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