Ad agencies may want to steer clear of asking employees to post positive messages about clients without disclosing their affiliation with campaigns. The Federal Trade Commission may not take too kindly to it.
Last week, Sony Computer Entertainment America reached a settlement with the FTC over charges that it deceived consumers with false advertising claims about the “game changing” technological features of its PlayStation Vita back in 2011 and 2012.
The FTC also revealed a complaint against Deutsch LA, which was Sony's agency for the campaign. Here's what the FTC had to say about that:
The FTC’s complaint against Deutsch LA charges the company with similarly misleading consumers through ads that it created touting the PS Vita’s cross-platform gaming and 3G features.
The Commission also alleges that Deutsch LA misled consumers with deceptive product endorsements for the PS Vita. Specifically, the agency used the term “#gamechanger” in its ads to direct consumers to online conversations about Sony’s console on Twitter. About a month before the gaming console was launched, one of Deutsch LA’s assistant account executives sent a company-wide email to staff asking them to help with the ad campaign by posting comments about the PS Vita on Twitter and using the same “#gamechanger” hashtag, according to the complaint.
In response to the company-wide email, various Deutsch LA employees posted positive tweets about the PS Vita to their personal Twitter accounts, without disclosing their connection to Deutsch or Sony, the FTC alleged. The FTC has charged that the tweets were misleading, as they did not reflect the views of actual consumers who had used the PS Vita, and because they did not disclose that they were written by employees of Deutsch LA.
It's not exactly surprising that the FTC would frown upon this kind of thing. It's pretty much in line with the Commissions guidelines on disclosure. Still, there are likely many others doing exactly the same thing.
PlayStation is no longer a Deutsch account; BBH has handled the video game company since 2013. And, the agency told Adweek, under the terms of the settlement, Deutsch L.A. did not admit to breaking any law and decided to resolve the case in order to skip prolonged legal battles.
It's unclear to what extent the FTC might be cracking down on these practices, as this appears to have been a single complaint related to a case against a major company it was already investigating. Still, you might want to think twice before asking employees to tweet promotional content on behalf of companies and clients without disclosure.
Image via Sony