The Federal Trade Commission updated guidelines Tuesday requiring short-form ads on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to include the same kind of "conspicuous disclosure" as any old-media advertisement.
The FTC suggested that marketers could tag Twitter ads by including the three characters "Ad:" at the beginning of the post or the nine-character word "sponsored." The agency also said marketers need to ensure users can still see the disclosures easily on a mobile display.
If a company can't make its disclosure fit the character limits of social or mobile ad, it needs to change the ad copy so that it doesn't require a disclosure, the agency said.
Disclosures must be clear enough that they aren't "misleading a significant minority of reasonable consumers," the FTC said.
The FTC provided hypothetical promotions that could cross the line. One sample Twitter post from a fictitious celebrity said: "Shooting movie beach scene. Had to lose 30lbs in 6 wks. Thanks Fat-away Pills for making it easy. Typical loss: 1lb/wk. #Spon." The FTC said the abbreviation for sponsor in that example might not be clear enough to consumers.
Twitter has provided methods to incorporate disclosure requirements into short Twitter ads. In tweets promoting political candidates or other political ads, Twitter designates them with a purple box and when a user hovers her mouse over the box, it shows a disclosure about who paid for the ad.