|Along with quite a few other people, we had a free dish of gelato
today in honor of Iorio's Gelateria's five years in business in Ann Arbor.
|Scooping the gelato is fun to watch. Upper right: Mary and Nick Lemmer, owners of Iorio's. Mary invited me to the event.
It's not often that I receive something free that I want to blog about, but recently (before I heard about the free gelato day at Iorio's) I was trying to inform myself about the FTC rules for endorsing products that you get for free. The rules are pretty clear: today I wasn't actually required to "disclose" anything: "If you mention a product you paid for yourself, there isn’t an issue. Nor is it an issue if you get the product for free because a store is giving out free samples to its customers."
Here is an FTC guideline that I think we all could live by when accepting a gift, no matter how small:
The question you need to ask is whether knowing about that gift or incentive would affect the weight or credibility your readers give to your recommendation. If it could, then it should be disclosed. For example, being entered into a sweepstakes or a contest for a chance to win a thousand dollars in exchange for an endorsement could very well affect how people view that endorsement. Determining whether a small gift would affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement could be difficult. It’s always safer to disclose that information.
Also, even if getting one free item that’s not very valuable doesn’t affect your credibility, continually getting free stuff from an advertiser or multiple advertisers could suggest you expect future benefits from positive reviews. If a blogger or other endorser has a relationship with a marketer or a network that sends freebies in the hope of positive reviews, it’s best to let readers know about the free stuff.
For a detailed list of questions and answers about blogging or using other social media in exchange for free stuff, see this document from the FTC: "The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking."