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About Online Advertising

About Online Advertising - You've managed to design your own website, round up the necessary funds, and slog through the various agreements you need to sell your wares over the Internet.

You are officially a cyber seller, a net-setter, an e-tailer. Before you start promoting your product, don't forget about your friends at the Federal Trade Commission, because they certainly haven't forgotten about you. In fact, the FTC recently published a guide for online advertising called Dot Com Disclosures.

Follow some basic points and you'll be fine:

  • If your advertisement doesn't pass muster offline, don't bother posting it online.
  • If there's something your customers ought to know — that the purchase price does not reflect hidden fees, for instance — disclose it.
  • Make your disclosure clear and conspicuous.
The rules of conduct are, of course, only fresh until the next technological development, but the FTC has tried to make its guide as general and widely-applicable as possible. Its authority for implementing the new guidelines is derived from Section five of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." This prohibition covers:
  • Advertising claims
  • Marketing and promotional activities
  • General sales methods

The contents of your advertisement must comply with three basic principles:
  • An ad must be truthful and not misleading. So, if an ad is likely to mislead an average consumer and that misperception influences a customer's decision to buy or use the product, it is considered deceptive.
  • Advertisers must be able to substantiate their claims. If you're going to run an ad, you must have support for the claims the ad conveys. For example, if your ad claims that tests show is a better search engine than, you should have some test results to back that up. If there is more than one reasonable interpretation a consumer can make, the ad has to substantiate each interpretation.
  • An ad cannot be unfair. It's unfair if, according to the FTC, it causes (or is likely to cause) serious consumer injury that couldn't have been reasonably avoided and isn't justified by the potential benefit to consumers or competition. For example, you must disclose all hidden fees. It's also considered unfair if you don't admit that you paid individuals for endorsements.