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April 2, 2014

FTC Unimpressed With Pinterest Contest

Cole Haan Catches Eye of Commission

A contest on Pinterest has caught the eye of the Federal Trade Commission and not because it thinks it may win.

ftcUsers of the popular scrapbook-like social network were recently encouraged by Cole Haan to enter the Wandering Sole contest. The contest asked users to pin or repin five images of Cole Haan footwear along with the same number of places they’d prefer to wander to. In addition, users had to use the #WanderingSole hashtag.

The winner would walk off with a $1,000 shopping spree.

While the contest seems fairly simple and unobtrusive it “violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45,” reported Marketing Land.

That’s the section that’s supposed to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Well, according to the FTC, the contest meets that criteria.

The FTC said encouraging users to pin or repin the images constituted “endorsements of the Cole Haan products” and other Pinterest users who saw the posts would not necessarily understand it was part of a contest.

“We do not believe that the “#WanderingSole” hashtag adequately communicated the financial incentive — a material connection —between contestants and Cole Haan,” Mary Engle, FTC associate director for advertising practices, said in a letter sent to the retailer’s attorneys.

As MediaPost reported, Engle added marketers are expected to disclose any connections between themselves and endorsers, unless the relationship is obvious.

“Under the circumstances set out above, entry into a contest to receive a significant prize in exchange for endorsing a product through social media constitutes a material connection that would not reasonably be expected by viewers of the endorsement,” she wrote.

While there were no charges involved, the FTC’s message is one of importance and needs to be recognized by both consumers and the companies asking them to participate in such contests.


W. Brice McVicar is a staff writer for SiteProNews.