FTC Blogger Guidelines Are for Schmoes, Not Celebs

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ftc_smallADOTAS – For all our celebrity readers, don’t worry about those Federal Trade Commission blogger guidelines — they don’t apply to the beautiful, famous and/or wealthy. Go ahead and endorse whatever product you want and get paid!

The rest of you no-name bloggers are just screwed.

There was some fuss when it was discovered that actress Gwyneth Paltrow gave the thumbs up on her blog to a hotel that likely comped her with a free stay. Of course she didn’t include that last bit, and intrepid Daily Finance reporter Jeff Bercovici asked Rich Cleland, associate director of FTC’s advertising division, what’s up with that? Wasn’t she in violation of the guidelines that were stamped into law recently? Shouldn’t she at least get a slap on the wrist?

Nah, Cleland said: “It is one of the issues where celebrity endorsements are a little different than person-on-the-street endorsements…. Would consumers understand that celebrities are always getting free stuff? It’s a factual question.”

Or as Gawker paraphrased: “You see, famous people are already presumed to be amoral schwag whores, unlike typical bloggers…. So celebs don’t have to explicitly disclose when they’re being amoral schwag whores.”

That always unspoken notion that there’s one set of rules for the famous and another for the rest of us swine is now gospel according to the FTC blogger guidelines.

No, I don’t really believe that, but I think this exemplifies why the guidelines are absolutely toothless, something I noted back when they were announced. They’re confusing, as noted by Interactive Advertising Council President and CEO Randall Rothenberg, and set no real standards, rules, fines…. Calling them guidelines is a stretch.

Plus this isn’t the first time Cleland has stuck his foot all the way down into his throat — this interview with Edward Champion is simultaneously cringe-worthy and hilarious.

Of course I believe bloggers — famous, non-famous and infamous alike — should disclose their relationships with the companies whose products they endorse. That would be this crazy concept I had instilled during my youth called “ethical behavior.”

But the FTC’s screwing the pooch on this ordeal makes me ponder whether regulating blogger disclosure is feasible — or worth the time and effort. Because, kinda like the FTC’s online privacy trials, this seems like a dog and pony show to appease consumer advocates.

On a side note, I was very upset I couldn’t find the mp3 to link to The Lemonheads’ classic (term very loosely used) “6IX,” which contains the glorious chorus, “Here comes Gwyneth’s head in a box!” Legend has it Evan Dando and Noel Gallagher got wicked stoned while watching the movie “Seven” and wrote an ode to the film’s climax. Hope I didn’t spoil the movie for anybody.

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