A safety checklist for mobile marketers

The world has seen a meteoric rise in mobile marketing in recent years, fueled by the development

of new mobile technologies and advertisers’ enthusiasm for new ways of getting audiences’ attention. The rise in mobile marketing made it necessary for marketers to pay attention to regulatory demands. Mobile advertisers must adhere to numerous laws and regulations, terms of use and other policies set by various regulatory bodies, as well as by social platforms like Google and Facebook and other websites they are sending traffic through.

Advertisers working in the international market must make sure they do not violate the laws and regulations set by each of the countries in which they operate. The good news is that there are fundamental principles that apply to the policies of most countries, including the U.S. and the European Union. Operating according to these principles could significantly minimize Mobile marketers’ legal exposure.

1. Don’t mislead your consumers

Any advertising or marketing method that might mislead the consumer is strictly forbidden. An advertisement may be perceived as misleading if it contains (or lacks) information in a way that might mislead or misinform a reasonable person, or at least effect such person’s decision to purchase the relevant product.

An ad could not be considered misleading if it includes all the information that might be relevant to the consumer. This may include special conditions for receiving a benefit, who is entitled to participate in a promotion, and what a consumer has to do to get an offer.

The main problem with marketing on mobile devices is that the screen is just too small to include all the required information. The bad news is, policymakers make no exceptions for mobile ads. If you can’t show all the relevant information on a small screen, you probably shouldn’t run the ad on mobile.

One solution is to use hyperlinks that direct consumers to additional information. Although the exact rules may change from one territory to another, in general, the use of links is permitted and even desirable. However, the general legal principle of full disclosure still applies, and not every case of “hiding” information behind links will be considered legitimate.

According to guidelines published by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, it is possible to link to additional information and conditions as long as the link follows a number of important principles. First, the link text should clearly indicate the information it leads to. An ad referring users to important conditions through a link marked “additional information” may be deemed misleading. However, a link marked “more information about our cancellation policy” might be legit.

Another rule of thumb is that the link must be prominent and should not be disguised by graphic choices such as color or small, unclear font. The FTC guidelines also dictate the position of the link, which must be placed as close as possible to the area in the ad relating to the information it links to. Finally, the landing page to which the link directs should be clear and easy to navigate so that the consumer can easily reach the relevant information.

Some important information, such as the price of a service or product, medical information, safety information, simply cannot be linked to and must be included in the body of the ad itself.

2. No spam, please!

In recent years, the war against spam has entered high gear, indicated by a record number of companies penalized for the distribution of junk mail. While different countries apply different prohibitions and exceptions, there are some general principles that must be followed.

First, consumers must give their clear consent before marketers can send them emails and text messages. It is not a good idea to take the consent given by a consumer for one purpose and stretch it to cover other uses. Similarly, a general authorization from a consumer might not be specific enough in some situations. You should also avoid abusing a consent given by a consumer to another business that you have taken over, as a result of a merger for example.

The other side of consent to receive advertisements is the right of the consumer to unsubscribe. The option to unsubscribe must be clear and easy to spot and appear in every advertising message sent to the consumer.

Since advertisers obviously don’t want the “opt out” to be too easy it became standard practice to make unsubscribing a multi-stage process, in which consumers clicking on the ‘unsubscribe’ link are directed to a “personal info update page” where they are often prompted to explain their decision and answer a survey.

3. Protecting your audiences’ privacy

If one of the goals of your mobile campaign is to collect consumer information you must also comply with laws regarding the collection and use of data. Advertisers should adopt a privacy policy which must be displayed on their website or app. The policy should address issues such as the type of information collected, whether you collect names, email address, phone numbers, pictures or other identifiable information, how will the information be used and shared, etc.

Some countries, including the U.S., strictly enforce compliance with the terms of privacy policies and often levied heavy fines on firms that infringed them. Make sure that the privacy policy you use is tailored to your company’s activities.

Final note

Make sure you are informed of the marketing methods and tactics used by your company and anybody operating on your behalf (including your affiliates) and don’t assume you’re safe just because you’re doing the same as everyone else. A useful rule of thumb is: do not do anything on mobile that you would not do in a non-mobile campaign.