They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but what about video? Whoever is behind the famous aphorism never crunched the numbers on video, but you’d have to think that the words-to-video conversion rate would be very large. After all, video advertisements are known to have tremendous advantages, even over those that use pictures. Video
How Compelling Content Helps Shape Online Reputation
You’re only as good as your first page of Google search results. That’s the reality of today’s business environment. Keeping a company’s online reputation as pristine as possible is a baseline for any sophisticated marketing strategy.
Need proof? The Edelman Trust Barometer for 2015 found that Internet search engines are now the most trusted source…
New York Cracks Down on Advertising’s Bad Apples
“Advertising and marketing cannot be used as a tool to confuse and endanger New York consumers.” – New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, April 2015
When you think about police work in the city of New York, you’re likely to think about officers patrolling the streets – not the billboards above it. The fact is,…
The Role of State Consumer Protection Regulation and Enforcement in a National Advertising Landscape
When we think about advertising law and regulation, we typically focus on Washington, D.C. and the federal regulatory agencies – for example, the FTC’s guidance, including in many industry-specific areas, the FDA’s regulation of food products and cigarettes, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s efforts of late in the financial services sector, among others. But state Attorneys General are also very active in the enforcement of consumer protection and advertising laws and regulations, both independently within their jurisdictions and jointly through multi-state investigations and actions. The increased presence of many advertisers in digital and social media does not have geographical borders, and state regulators can take issue with the advertising claims and methods used in these new media platforms along with more traditional ones.
State Attorneys General offices use consumer protection laws and regulations to help shape public policy and improve communications to consumers, but they are also subject to, and driven by, the partisan politics of elections and the complex webs of relationships that operate day-to-day in state governments. This can mean national advertisers may face state regulation from a number of different angles.
The Way I See It
- I see state Attorneys General becoming increasingly active in enforcing consumer protection laws, with increased initiatives to regulate online, mobile, and social media.
- I see state regulators initiating investigations and taking action in response to national advertising campaigns, which have an impact on consumers within their states and which may not comply with the letter of each particular state’s unique laws and regulations. There is a greater need than ever to carefully consider these nuances when vetting national advertising materials.
- I see a complicated political structure in each state when it comes to interpreting regulators’ motives and actions, and a symbiosis between the actions and interests of federal regulators and their state counterparts.
The Way The Industry Sees It
I sat down with Al Shelden, Ex-Senior Assistant Attorney General of California who was in charge the state’s Consumer Law Section, to get a state regulator’s perspective on some key consumer protection issues.
As a former state regulator, how important do you think state Attorneys General are for shaping regulation of national advertisers and big brands? How did you view national advertising campaigns during your tenure in California?
The state Attorneys General have a long history of shaping the regulation of national advertisers and big brands. Starting in the ’80s and ’90s, the states were the first to challenge “health” advertising by cereal, fast food, and vitamin companies. We also were the first to challenge the use of deceptive environmental claims in advertising. The FTC and Congress followed. Today the states are leading the way in actions against pharmaceutical companies for off label promotion of drugs. The states’ actions and adoption of legislation against the deceptive use of sweepstakes and other product promotions also preceded federal action in these areas. Likewise, actions brought by the Attorneys General involving improper telephonic solicitations and advertisers’ improper use of information they obtained from customers lead to the adoption of telephonic seller registration, do not call and privacy protection laws, first on a state level and then on the national level. Since national advertising in California affects tens of million California residents, we always viewed it, and still do, as “local” advertising, meaning that any advertising which is used to obtain business from California residents must comply with California law.
What has been the historical relationship between the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General? What is the current relationship like?
Historically, the relationship has been one of benign neglect, conflict, and cooperation. In the 1960’s, when those states that did not yet have consumer protection laws started to adopt them, a large portion looked to the FTC and the FTC Act. During the ’60s and ’70s, the FTC and the Attorneys General “got along” but seldom regularly worked together on issues. Starting in the early ’80s, things between the Attorneys General and the FTC became somewhat “testy” when, under Chairman James Miller III, the FTC adopted its “deception” and “unfairness” policies. Many states thought these policies incorrectly defined FTC case law requirements for advertisers and argued they should only be viewed as the FTC’s own enforcement guidelines. Because some states’ laws tie the meaning and interpretation of their laws to FTC regulations and decisions, there was great concern. One state, Missouri, changed its consumer law so that it was no longer tied to FTC law. Things remained cold until Janet Steiger became FTC Chair in 1989. She worked tirelessly to reach out to the Attorneys General and convince them that going forward the Attorneys General and the FTC needed to be trusting partners who should be working together toward the same goals. Her term marked the true beginning of the Attorneys General and the FTC working cases jointly, sharing information and deferring to one another in the proper circumstances. Improving relations continued under Robert Pitofsky’s tenure and while there have been periods of ebb and flow since then, things again were very harmonious during Jon Leibowitz’s term as Chair and David Vladek’s term as Head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. There appears to be no reason to think that such cooperation will not continue during the term of Edith Ramirez as Chair.
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A Conversation With Verizon’s Jerry Karnick On The FTC’s Updated Dot Com Disclosure Guidelines
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released updated Dot Com Disclosure guidelines to fast forward to the present day and catch up with the technology consumers use more and more frequently – including smartphones, tablets, and social media. I previously gave you an overview of what the updated guidance means and how marketers need to approach the new FTC standards, and you’ve read “The Way I See It” on the updated guidelines.
I wanted to turn to an industry expert to discuss what the new FTC Dot Com Disclosure guidelines mean for advertising on various key platforms and what could be next for mobile and tech.
The Way the Industry Sees It:
I sat down with Jerry Karnick, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Verizon Wireless, to get his thoughts.
We all seem to agree that the updated guidance was a necessity, but do you think the Dot Com Disclosures will help grow advertising potential on mobile and online platforms?
I do. Advertising through online and mobile platforms is here to stay, and the new Dot Com Disclosures recognize and embrace that reality. Of equal importance, the new Dot Com Disclosures also provide advertisers with added clarity on what is required, while continuing to allow advertisers the necessary flexibility to meet those obligations. With the guidance provided by the new Dot Com Disclosures, more and more reputable advertisers will have increased comfort advertising on these platforms, especially on the small screens available in the mobile arena. At the same time those advertisers won’t have to worry that their ads, which include the disclosures necessary to ensure the ad is neither false or misleading, will be less appealing than the ads of other online or mobile advertisers that may not have otherwise included the necessary disclosures, either at all or in proximity to the main advertising message.
With smartphones and tablets, the majority of issues presented by the old Dot Com Disclosures were how to present disclosures in the new space constraints. For the mobile industry, does the new guidance meet these concerns and are there any significant new issues that are raised?
The new Dot Com Disclosures provide the necessary clarity about whether and how the traditional advertising rules will apply in the mobile space. What they don’t do – nor, of course, could they – is increase the size of the screen. The industry will continue to wrestle with space constraints. But, now that there is clarity on what is required, it will be up to all of us to find new and creative ways to design ads in ways to ensure the necessary information is communicated effectively and the overall message conveyed to consumers is not misleading.
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Spring Fashion Series: Retail Growth in the Digital Age
In this post I will examine the growth of retail store sales. Sales at brick-and-mortar retail stores constitute 90% of all retail sales in the United States. And many major retailers have found that their digital consumer engagement and investments made toward boosting their online presence has actually resulted in increased in-store visits. In fact, with the economy rebounding, some major retailers who were forced to close stores during the financial crisis are now implementing large-scale growth strategies and seeking hot real estate in key markets. So, how are the retail stores remaining relevant and competitive in the age of e-commerce and online shopping?
The Way I See It
- I see major fashion brands continuing to build brand loyalty among customers and encourage return in-store visits among frequent shoppers in an effort to boost sales and word-of-mouth marketing.
- Shopping remains a social activity, with family and friends using trips to retail stores and/or shopping malls as a social outing, but also tying into social and online media: people will check-in at retail stores on FourSquare, post photos of themselves trying on a new spring outfit at a retail store on Instagram, or Tweet about their latest obsession or shopping trip.
- I see physical retail stores starting to use new tools to collect digital data on in-store visitors in order to improve the competitive edge retailers have, and they’ll use their access to data to improve customer experience and target marketing.
- I see retail stores meeting a critical need: they allow customers to try on items for fit and styling options. Many retailers have seen that while customers may visit their websites or social media pages to explore new apparel or jewelry, they still visit stores in order to be able to make sure the particular item fits well and fits their personal style – and also to score sale or clearance items only available in certain stores.
- While the fashion industry must continue to embrace social media engagement and a digital presence in order to build brand loyalty and presence among customers, I believe brands will also continue to develop retail growth strategies through marketing and advertising to boost in-store sales and visits.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Seth Farbman, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Gap, to discuss brand strategy to maintain a competitive edge and continue retail growth.
Gap is well-known for having a strong brand presence traditionally, with advertising, in-store marketing, and retail offers, as well as online in social media through customer engagement, online promotions, and other tools. In the spring, we see a lot of bright colors coming into play. What advertising and marketing tactics compose a strong retail strategy to drive sales both in-store and online?
It all starts with keeping our brand relevant and connected to culture. I’m very proud of our iconic marketing campaigns, because they’ve been strongly grounded in what Gap stands for— American optimism, democracy and the belief in the power of the individual. However, a strong retail strategy must go beyond the traditional – it requires constant development of content and telling of stories that builds a lifestyle consistently across the brand. Customers expect us to have personal, two-way relationships with them, so we’ve hired a team of digital experts and community managers to speak with them, instead of to them. Our Styld.by social commerce program is an excellent example of how we deliver relevance that’s constantly fresh and exciting. It has been incredibly successful.
Are there certain in-store only promotions that retailers perceive as a factor in visits? Do window displays remain important in this age to draw in potential customers, or is brand recognition and brand loyalty still the main factor to attract shoppers?
A brand that a customer feels is relevant to their life is the first step. But windows and in-store marketing are a very important way we can share new styles and collections with customers. We are fortunate to have amazing flagship stores in some of the largest cities around the world. These are living billboards for us. The store experience is a very effective way to turn casual shoppers into loyal customers. Promotions are part of the excitement of shopping — everyone loves getting a great product at an excellent price – but simply being able to emotionally display new items in windows is still a great way to connect with people.