Marketing and the FTCYou may have seen in the news recently a case from the Federal Trade Commission, where they charged an online lead generation company, Adteractive with violations of the CAN-SPAM act because the company failed to disclose to consumers that their apparently \”free\” promotions actually required the consumer to incur a cost. The company settled with the FTC and agreed to pay a civic penalty of $650,000, as well as have the FTC monitor their activities.

The significance of this case is clear when you consider the subject lines and content found in advertising emails. One of the main provisions of the CAN-SPAM act prohibits \”deceptive subject lines\”, or in other words, the subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message. In the case of Adteractive, because the subject lines of their email messages implied that the reader had won a contest, or were specially selected for a promotion, the company failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose that the recipient would incur expenses by participating in the program.

As this is the first case of its kind from the FTC, this serves as a signal to marketers that they may be liable for \”deceptiveness in advertising\”, depending on the subject lines and content of their messages. Here are just a few examples of advertising categories and deceptive subject lines that could raise red flags:

  • Mortgage Advertisements
    1. o Your mortgage refinance
      o Your mortgage offers
      o Do you want 3.75% financing
      o Your mortgage pre-approval
  • Prescription drugs
    1. o Viagra 100mg x 30 pills = $89.95
      o Cheap pills are here
      o Buy cheap Canadian drugs and start saving now
      o Best pills, cheapest prices
  • Contests
    1. o Play this game for free and get $999
      o Free award: 10 winning notifications
      o Free money. Free fun
      o Get a free laptop
  • Get rich quick schemes
    1. o Not a get rich quick scheme
      o Make money fast
      o Get Rich With Absolutely No Work
      o Work at home
      o Are you rich yet?
      o No selling required

  • Weight loss
    1. o Losing weight has never been so easy!
      o The average weight loss is nearly 4 pounds per week
      o Control your weight and appetite
      o Try the new miracle weight loss herb
  • Products and Services
    1. o Absolutely free hosting
      o Free business listing and membership
      o Look rich with Rolex from $199
  • Credit repair
    1. o Poor credit not a problem
      o Credit deceptions exposed – get my mini course
      o Credit repair… boost your score!
      o Have A-credit in a month
  • Travel/Vacation fraud
    1. o Free vacation and free airfare
      o You have won a FREE Vacation Worth $3000
      o 4 Night Luxury Cancun Vacation – Free!
      o Enjoy a Bahama cruise vacation at no cost
      o MAGICAL ORLANDO! Your complimentary 3 day 2 night vacation

    As you consider the subject and content of your email messages, please be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding what is acceptable and what may be considered deceptive.


    Jaren Angerbauer
    Director of Deliverability

    Drink Responsibly, Drive Responsibly, Email Responsibly