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Published on April 4th, 2014

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FTC Frowns upon Cole Haan’s Wandering Soles

Are you pinning a pair of shoes or are you pinning an ad?

The FTC is pinterested* in making sure consumers know the difference. And so Cole Haan drew the FTC’s eye for its “Wandering Soles” Pinterest campaign, in which the shoe seller asked Pinterest users to create boards featuring five Cole Haan shoes, five “favorite places to wander,” and the hashtag #WanderingSoles, in exchange for a chance to win a $1000 shopping spree.

The FTC was concerned that other Pinterest users seeing the boards would not recognize the #wanderingsoles pins as part of Cole Haans’ marketing campaign, and mistake the boards for normal Pinterest content. In a March 20 letter to lawyers for Cole Haan, the FTC wrote that “We believe that participants’ pins featuring Cole Haan products were endorsements of the Cole Haan products, and the fact that the pins were incentivized by the opportunity to win a $1000 shopping spree would not reasonably be expected by consumers who saw the pins.”

The FTC decided not to pursue enforcement action against the company, in part because Cole Haan “has since adopted a social media policy that adequately addresses [the FTC’s] concerns.”

Cole Haan is not the first company to draw the FTC’s attention over its social media marketing. After Kim Kardashian tweeted an unmarked ad for Eos lip balm last summer, the agency reminded celebrities they should be adding the hashtag #ad to mark compensated tweets. And in September, the FTC told TINA.org it was “paying attention” to unmarked endorsements on social media.

Consumers should be aware that any social media post could be part of a sponsored campaign. Celebrities are in all likelihood being compensated for their posts — even for presidential selfies — and even your friends may be compensated, too. Think twice while wandering the social media landscape.

*Sorry.

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Established in 1914 under President Woodrow Wilson, the FTC is the United States government’s primary regulatory authority in the area of consumer protection and anti-competitive business practices in the marketplace. Its Bureau of Consumer Protection assumes the lead in the Commission’s efforts to eliminate deceptive advertising and fraudulent business practices at work in the economy.

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