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FTC Slaps Cole Haan For 'Inauthentic Content' On Pinterest

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Cole Haan has recieved a warning from the Federal Trade Commission regrading their recent "Wandering Sole Pinterest Contest." At stake was a $1,000 Cole Haan gift card—just create a "My Wandering Sole" board on Pinterest, re-pin at least five Cole Haan shoe images, and tag the posts #WanderingSole. Pretty standard stuff, right?

The FTC says the boards created for the contest "were endorsements of the Cole Haan products, and the fact that the pins were incentivized by the opportunity to win a $1,000 shopping spree would not reasonably be expected by customers who saw the pins," according to Slate. Translation: Your friends on Pinterest might not know you were making a Wandering Sole board in effort to win a prize from Cole Haan, and they might think you just really, really like Cole Haan.

So what, exactly, does the FTC expect of brands holding social media contests? Eric Goldman, a professor of Internet and advertising law and director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara Law explained to Slate that "the FTC wanted Cole Haan to tell its Pinterest users to label the posts as part of the contest, and then it wanted Cole Haan to go and double check that all of the users had done that labeling. It's part of the whole phenomenon of the FTC thinking that it can police inauthentic content online."

The brand got off with a warning, but it does punctuate the road of social advertising. "I would say that this serves as a caution to retailers working in the social media space about the importance of disclosing any potential motivations other than interest," says Ted Mermin, executive director of the Public Good Law Center and a professor of consumer law at UC–Berkeley School of Law. Expect to hear a lot in coming months about what point in the incentive versus reward process a social media post deserves to be labeled "#ad."
· Cole Haan Pinterest Shoe Contest Draws FTC's Ire [Slate]
· The FTC Is Making Reebok Fork Over $25M Because, as It Turns Out, Their Toning Sneakers Don't Do Any Extra Toning [Racked]