By Jeffrey R. Glassman, Partner
“We have the best mobile app on the market!” “Subscribe now and win an Apple watch!” “Download our software and we guarantee an increase in your business within 30 days!” That all sounds quite wonderful, actually. Where do I sign up? As a consumer, these statements pique my interest. However, if you are the company promoting your products through these kinds of digital advertisements, you may want to choose your words more carefully. While the Internet and an ever expanding universe of technology platforms are connecting companies and consumers at an unimaginable rate and in ways that once seemed impossible, if you are on the sell-side of the equation you need to proceed with caution. Even though interactive graphics and video are making digital marketing campaigns easier to execute and more successful with each passing generation, companies need to remember three basic guidelines when promoting and selling their “stuff” in cyberspace.
First, don’t be deceptive or unfair in your advertising online. If you make a representation or omit something important when selling your product, you are likely going to mislead consumers and the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) will hold you accountable. Hidden charges can be misleading. If you claim your product costs x, then you better not tack on y and z at checkout without making proper and prominent disclosures of those additional fees and costs. If you are going to make certain claims about your product and what it can do, you better be in a position to substantiate those claims with tangible evidence. If you are citing data, tests or studies in convincing consumers that your product is the best in its category, that data and those tests must be reliable. The same applies to pay-per-click advertisements. Pay-per-click, also known as cost per click, is an internet marketing technique used to drive traffic to websites, in which an advertiser pays a publisher when an ad is clicked on. To ensure your online advertising is above board, it is often wise to consult a PPC Cheshire expert such as Ram Digital.
Second, if you need to make disclaimers and disclosures when selling your products online in order to avoid being deceptive, they must be clear and conspicuous and consumers must be able to notice them, read or hear them, and understand the information being conveyed. It all sounds quite easy, but complying with these requirements in a digital world can be challenging. In order to avoid a sticky mess with the FTC, your disclaimer must be prominently displayed and close in proximity to your claim. On a website with hundreds of pages, parts of which may be frames-based or interactive and may contain countless hypertext links, you need to make sure that claims related to your products and disclaimers about such products always find themselves in close proximity to one another. As a digital seller, you must also take into account the various devices and platforms consumers may use to view your ads. If an ad is viewable on a particular device or platform, then your corresponding disclosure must also be viewable on such devices or platforms. If the disclosure cannot be incorporated into the ad itself, when using a hypertext link to lead to a disclosure, make the link obvious, label it appropriately, and take consumers directly to the click-through page containing the disclosure.
Third, and finally, be mindful of your consumers privacy. Digital security and confidentiality are taking on unprecedented importance in digital markets across the globe. If you want to not only capture new users and consumers but also keep them, you must care for and protect their personal information in the digital marketplace. The core principles of online privacy are notice, choice, access and security. If you are going to collect and share consumer information with third parties, you need to disclose that fact to your user base. Consumers must be given options with respect to whether and how their personal information is collected from them and used by you. Moreover, your users must be able to view and contest the accuracy and completeness of data collected by you about them. And if you are going to be in the business of data collection, make sure that you take reasonable steps to provide adequate digital security to protect it. This is especially important if you are going to collect financial information from your consumers in addition to the more generic personal information.
If you want to thrive in today’s digital marketplace, be sure to understand and appreciate the nuts and bolts of advertising online: Don’t be deceptive; make your disclaimers conspicuous; and remember that your consumers care deeply about their privacy.