Pinterest Contest Draws FTC Warning

PinterestFootwear company Cole Haan recently held a contest with Pinterest that offered a grand prize of a $1,000 shopping spree.  To win, contestants were required to create a board entitled “Wandering Sole,” and pin at least five images from the company’s Wandering Sole Pinterest Board, together with five images of the contestants’ “favorite places to wander,” tagging each pin with the hashtag #WanderingSole. Whoever submitted the most creative entry would win the prize.

This seemingly innocuous contest drew the attention of the FTC, which viewed the pins of the Cole Haan products as endorsements, and the $1,000 prize represented a material connection between the contestants and Cole Haan.  According to the FTC, this violated its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsement and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Endorsement Guides require the disclosure of any “material connection” between an advertiser and a consumer’s endorsement of the advertiser’s products, if that connection is not otherwise readily apparent from the context of the communication that contains the endorsement.  The FTC viewed the prize as a “material connection” between the consumer’s statement (the pin boards).  Although the boards featured a  #WanderingSole hashtag, the FTC viewed this as insufficient to communicate this material connection.  In other words, consumers would likely view the contestants creation of the pin boards as a statement; “I love and recommend Cole Haan shoes.”

Because it has never publicly addressed the issue before, the FTC did not initiate an enforcement action against Cole Haan.  At this point forward however, companies administering contests through through Pinterest and other social media outlets should take heed of this warning and clearly disclose the connection between the company and whatever the contestant is required to do in connection with the contest.

Author: Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.
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