Cole Haan, a shoe manufacturer recently ran a photo contest, titled “Wandering Shoe,” which offered $1000 for the ‘most creative entry.’ The contest required users to post photos on Pinterest, with a board titled “Wandering Sole” and then create five photos of the shoes, five photos of ‘places to wander’, and use the proper hashtag.
The FTC looked at this contest because it was run on the individual consumer’s social media accounts, not one centralized location. In addition, there was no requirement that the images had any indication that they were being posted for a contest, rather than just the normal desire to post pictures on Pinterest. This could cause people to believe that these individual were actually endorsing the product, even though they were largely in it just for the prize.
The FCT commented that they looked at the consumer postings as endorsements, and that the fact that there was a prize should have been disclosed on each image page.
Despite these concerns, the FTC did not take any direct action as a result of the contest because Cole Haan’s adopted a social media policy to ensure things like this would not happen again, and the contest ran for a very brief time with relatively few entries.
Regardless of this fact, however, it is clear that the FTC is taking social media marketing very seriously. They are keeping an eye on these types of contests, as well as any marketing activity, and is not afraid to investigate where necessary. In addition, now that the FTC has made it clear that this type of marketing is frowned upon, they might not be so willing to let future violations go with just a warning.
FTC Letter is below