Media in the Crosshairs?

I know of no suit by the FTC against a media company for running an allegedly deceptive advertisement for someone else’s product or service. In a July 9 letter, the FTC states the “active participation in advertising preparation” by a radio broadcaster is subject to challenge for possible violations of §5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which gives the Commission broad authority to prohibit “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” The FTC characterized the broadcaster as a “hybrid entity,” both producing programming and participating in preparing advertising. In the past, ad agencies have been held liable for a deceptive advertisement if the agency was actively involved in developing and producing the advertising. Now the FTC is stating that media companies can be subject to the same analysis. Increasing use of product placement, sponsorships, context-sensitive advertising, branded entertainment and the host of ways advertising and programming increasingly intersect and blur, make it inevitable that media companies will more actively be challenged in connection with what products and services show up on the screen as part of programming. Now the FTC has also indicated the media may have responsibility for what shows up in advertising if a media company participates in its creation or development. It should also come as no surprise that certain advertising (targeted at children; diets)—those that have been special targets for FTC enforcement action—should receive the most attention. Do you have a policy regarding participation in the creation or development of advertising (if you are an advertiser or advertising agency you probably do) and does it need updating? If you are a media company, you may not (other than for your own ads)—but then, maybe you should. Where can you go for help? The answer is not a useless fact, but it is compelling.