Archives: December 2016

2016: The Year in Review

In case you missed it, here are some notable items from 2016 concerning sweepstakes, contests, and related promotional matters:

Influencers, Native Advertising, and Endorsements

2016 kicked off with reaction to the FTC’s new Native Advertising Rules which seek more transparency in sponsored stories/advertising.

In March, in its first enforcement action, the FTC cracked down on Lord & Taylor for paying “influencers” to attract social media attention to its Paisley Asymmetrical Dress.  The FTC issued a number of directives, including making the influencers aware of their participation, and making disclosure of the relationship unavoidable.

In May, the National Advertising Division (NAD), a self-regulatory industry, issued a decision concerning native advertising appearing in People.com under the “Stuff We Love” section.  The NAD determined that disclosure of the sponsorship must be made before you get to the stuff page.

In July, the FTC charged Warner Bros. with making inadequate disclosures in videos of influencers playing a new video game.  The FTC didn’t like that the sponsorship disclosure was in a collapsed box below the video and needed to be in a place where consumers will find it.

In October, in an effort to comply with the FTC Rule, YouTube introduced a new feature allowing visible text on a video for the first few seconds with the label stating “Includes paid promotion”

The take:  Consumers and the FTC don’t particularly like “influencers” or hidden ads, so be conspicuous. (more…)

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Throw Back Thursday Edition: Vintage Sweepstakes and Contest Ads, How Far We’ve Come

First, a short history lesson.  The term “sweepstakes” dates back to the 15th century in reference to a common game where everyone placed a “stake” and the winner “swept” up all of the stakes when he won.

And how about this – the term “sweepstakes” (or “swoopstake”) was mentioned by no less than William Shakespeare in Hamlet, Act IV, Scene V, verse 142 where Claudias warns Laertes that if he follows through with his threats of revenge, “that, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe, winner and loser.”

Turn to the 20th century and marketers began using attractive print ads to promote consumer sweepstakes.  Let’s take a walk down memory lane to look at a few interesting ones.

Picture Puzzle Contest (1921) – Or, The More You Buy, The More You Can Win.

In a brazen marketing pitch, the Sponsor makes no bones about the purpose of this Xmas contest: “The object of this picture puzzle game is to get more people acquainted with Minnesota Fountain Pens. … We want you to buy one of our pens for yourself and another one to use as a gift.”  True to its word, the Sponsor included in the advertisement a handy chart of “Prizes” which increase “If no pens are purchased”, “If one $5 pen is purchased”, and “If $9 worth [of] pens are purchased.”  (NB: It’s a skill contest, so no purchase necessary arguably didn’t apply.) (more…)

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A Trap for the Unwary: DMCA Safe Harbor Registration Alert

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to take advantage of the safe harbor from copyright infringement liability, an online service provider (OSP) has to register and designate an agent with the US Copyright Office to receive “takedown notices” of user-generated content – the notices from the actual copyright holder saying, essentially, “hey, someone posted my stuff on your website, so take it down!”  Previously, one-time paper registration was all that was needed.

Now, the US Copyright Office recently announced significant changes to the registration/agent designation process effective December 1, 2016 affecting all OSPs (even those already registered). (more…)

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