I’ve recently seen a number of disclaimers at the bottom of bloggers’ posts about specific products that go something like this:
The product(s) featured in this review was provided free of cost to me for the sole purpose of product testing and review. This review has not been monetarily compensated and is based on the views and opinions of my family and/or self. Please note that the opinions reflected in this post have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way.
To me such legal language has a chilling effect on what should be a friendly conversation among people who like good eats. And the beauty part is… it’s total unnecessary! Who says? Our friends at the Federal Trade Commission, which is the agency that oversees such matters.
The FTC’s Revised Endorsement Guides: What People are Asking is maybe the only government-produced document you’ll ever see that is actually understandable. To quote,
“The revised Guides – issued after public comment and consumer research – reflect three basic truth-in-advertising principles:
- Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading;
- If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances; and
- If there’s a connection between the endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.”
A product review in which the reviewer is paid and doesn’t disclose this obviously violates these principles. So what about complimentary samples provided for review, invitations to tastings and such? If you are a regular reader of Burnt My Fingers, you may have noted that I am always careful to say when I have tasted a product at the invitation of a producer, as in recent posts on Orchard Bars, Market Bistro and Jones Dairy Farm. I think the admission is more important than the stilted language, and the FTC agrees with me:
“Is there special language I have to use to make the disclosure?
“No. The point is to give readers the information. Your disclosure could be as simple as ‘Company X gave me this product to try . . ..’
“Do I have to hire a lawyer to help me write a disclosure?
“No. What matters is effective communication, not legalese. A disclosure like ‘Company X sent me [name of product] to try, and I think it’s great’ gives your readers the information they need.”
Also, I (and many other bloggers) don’t actually endorse products. We talk about our experience with them. If I have a really bad impression of something provided to me, I just won’t write about it (though I may Yelp it). Life is too short. Even with a generally favorable experience, like my initial visit to Market Bistro, I found some nits to pick at. (Cheese priced higher than I thought it should be.)
The defense rests. Disclaimer: no lawyers were harmed in the production of this post.