The Federal Trade Commission recently decided that a Cole Haan Pinterest contest was potentially deceptive, which could have a ripple effect for brands using the network for B2C marketing. According to the FTC’s evaluation, it would not have been innately clear to third-party Pinterest users that the contest boards were part of a branded campaign, or that contest participants were required to use five Cole Haan images in their entries to be eligible for a $1,000 prize.
Thus, the FTC concludes that it must be obvious to people who see the boards that:
A) They were created for a branded contest
B) There is money on the line, serving as an incentive for consumers to promote the company’s products
If other brands run into similar problems with the FTC, Pinterest could ultimately run into a one-step forward, two-steps back kind of scenario. It has been working to develop commercial opportunities for companies as an incentive to get on the site. Contests were one way that companies could share branded content and measure the results via contest entries and new followers. If this suddenly became a tactic with a lot of red tape around it, businesses may be forced to find alternative avenues for B2C social marketing.
Of course, Pinterest might have carved out an alternative by that point. It recently added promoted Pins, a feature that lets companies buy wider reach among targeted audiences. However, those posts are marked as sponsored and users have the ability to turn off the suggestions if they only want organic results.
The lines are blurring online. Networks that were once owned and operated by users are now stomping grounds for businesses, too. Ultimately, the brands that tread seamlessly between commercial goals and great user experiences will generate the strongest results.