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Product endorsements on Twitter should publicise financial involvement

By Katie Bird , 12-Jan-2011

Celebrities endorsing cosmetics products on social networking site Twitter should disclose any financial involvement otherwise they may be breaching fair trading laws, according to the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The practice of recruiting well known personalities to endorse a product line is well known within the cosmetics and fragrance industry, and a top celebrity’s Twitter account, with their thousands of ‘followers’, represents an important marketing tool.

However, these online marketing efforts are still subject to the same laws that affect offline media, the OFT has warned recently.

“OFT has confirmed its view that online advertising and marketing activities that do not disclose they include paid-for promotions are deceptive under fair trading laws,” the organisation has said.

The OFT went on to underline that these marketing activities include comments about services and products on websites, blogs and microblogs such as Twitter. According to the OFT, this is because the integrity of information published online is necessary to allow consumers to make informed decisions.

“We expect online advertising and marketing campaigns to be transparent so consumers can clearly tell when blogs, posts and microblogs have been published in return for payment or payment in kind,” said the senior director of OFT’s consumer group Heather Clayton.

Estée Lauder product endorsements

In the media coverage that has followed the release, model and actress Liz Hurley has been highlighted for a number of tweets she posted recommending Estée Lauder’s products.

Responding to the attention her Tweets had received in light of the OFT’s position, she posted yesterday: “It’s hardly a secret that I work for Estée Lauder – I’ve modelled for them for 17 years. Love telling u about their products – they’re the best xx”.

Transparency

While the OFT has said it will not comment on exactly how companies publicise any financial involvement, it has confirmed that this must be made clear.

“What the OFT has not done is advise marketers on how to make transparencies and full disclosures, that is for the industry to decide and could be different in each case,” an OFT spokesperson told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

“However, Twitter has an application to provide or insert an icon that says if a tweet is an advert, which is often used in the US” the spokesperson added.

The OFT were unable to comment on any future action it might be taking against companies found to be flouting these regulations.

“We can’t comment on any ongoing cases and investigation, but it is an area we have got the power to investigate,” the spokesperson said.

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