Home security company ADT has settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it paid spokespeople to demonstrate its Pulse home security/monitoring system on NBC's Today show, as well as other TV and radio shows, without revealing they had been compensated.
The FTC said there were a total of 40 TV and radio appearances as well as blog posts and other material.
ADT has agreed not to misrepresent paid endorsements as independent reviews, but an FTC spokesperson said the commission "did not allege any law violation on the part of the media outlets" that treated the reviews as independent.
“When a paid endorser appears in a news or talk show segment with the host of that program, the relationship with the advertiser must be clearly disclosed," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Consumer Protection Bureau.
According to the complaint ADT "set up media interviews for the endorsers through its public relations firms and booking agents." The FTC said ADT often provided reporters and anchors with suggested questions and b-roll video.
"The paid ADT endorsers were introduced by program hosts as experts in child safety, home security, or technology, usually with no mention of any connection to ADT," the FTC said. For example, in a clip of the Today show appearance, the pitchwoman is described as a "national family and safety expert."
"The endorsers sometimes demonstrated child safety, home security, or technology products other than the ADT Pulse, adding to the impression that they were providing an impartial, expert review of the products."
In addition to not misrepresenting paid spokespeople, the settlement means ADT has agreed to disclose clearly and prominently display in advertising any material connection between the endorser and the company.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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