The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released a guide to affiliate marketing for consumers in efforts to create awareness around the channel and how to avoid scams.
The post, entitled, “What’s Affiliate Marketing? Should I Care?”, opens with the summary: “Many of the ads you see online are created by marketers who are paid each time you click on their ad. And if that click takes you to a website where you sign up to try a product or you make a purchase, the marketer may get paid even more. These are affiliate marketers.”
While warning consumers that “all these people may be tracking you, too, just from that one first click”, the post explains that affiliate is a good way to promote a service or product as long as the ad is “truthful”.
The awareness campaign comes following a number of gambling sites’ incidental involvement in “fake news” content with affiliate links to their sites. “Near identical” ads were found to be pointing to sites including Ladbrokes, Sky Betting & Gaming, 888 and Casumo.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that these ads were designed to deceive and dupe money out of the “vulnerable”, suggesting gambling as a means to escape personal problems.
While making no reference to this particular case, the FTC post points to a recent case of “defendants” selling tooth-whitening products with ads for low-cost trials, which deliberately deceived consumers into signing up to monthly shipments totalling $188.96 each month.
The post finishes with three points of advice for consumers, suggesting they ask themselves, “How do I know who is behind the ad?”; “Are they likely to be deceiving me for financial gain?; and “Who is tracking me when I click the ad?”.
Comments on the article from consumers range from “good information” to tales of their own involvement in scams; “I’ve been shopping online for over 15 years, but Free Samples is the only area where I have ever had a serious problem,” said one poster.
Another poster draws attention to the growing prevalence of scam ads on Facebook; “I read the reviews on Facebook after I placed an order. Really stupid of me. Most were saying it is a scam and what they got was inferior products. I learned a valuable lesson.”
Despite the good intentions of the post in terms of creating awareness, it’s troublesome for the industry that the type of fraudulent advertising referred to by the FTC continues to fall under and tarnish the label of legitimate affiliate marketing.