70 Characters or Less

By Nathan Gawel, Paid Search Associate Director, Advertising Solutions

Try describing yourself in 70 characters or less. Can you possibly explain why George Clooney is the hottest man on the planet in 70 characters or less? People Magazine needs a whole article to do so. Well, these are all examples of what Search Marketing copywriters go through on a daily basis. Trying to fit a world of information into 70 characters or less for a text ad is not the easiest thing to do.

Luckily, the engines allow us to make statements within these characters as long as the landing page we drive to supports these statements. This practice is also known as the “one-click” rule. For example, a copywriter can call out there is a ‘70% Off Sale’ as long as the landing page supports this statement. The same used to be true for pharmaceutical claims. If you were a maker of a drug that treated depression, you could state that in your text ad, as long as the website supported that statement. This was the case until recently for 14 major pharmaceutical companies. The FDA issued them a letter informing them that they were using “misleading” and “misbranded” information.

While the FDA came across this issue "through [their] routine monitoring of promotion done on the internet,” they don’t have any official guidelines for digital media- at least, not yet. What does this mean for the future of digital media? While Barack Obama is an advocate of net neutrality and the First Amendment online, no serious discussions have taken place about other forms of regulations stepping into the digital arena. The FDA should have done a little more work and devised a plan to approach the digital space. Perhaps working with the IAB and the pharmaceutical companies to create an official policy, instead of sending a letter, would have been a good idea. How do they plan on regulating YouTube videos that are posted and/or ads that are posted on these videos? What about advertising in social blogs, Facebook, MySpace, etc? Can they regulate the millions of sites that offer advertising?

Is this the first step to future regulations of blogs? While WebMD has partnered with the FDA (good move), what will happen to Jane Doe who talks about what drugs helped her beat cancer but does not put the appropriate “lawyer-happy” terminology on her site? Will she become a “misleading” and “misbranded” site that can be shut down by the FDA? The statement above seems far-fetched-- , but so does the necessity to say “Do Not Eat” on the labels in my Beef Jerky. Apparently, someone feels it’s warranted.


B Don said...

Nice article. I also think the FDA is going to have to define "misleading." To me, misleading is serving an ad that has no brand signifance or explanation to it--other than saying "click here to find out more." People should know if brand A treats type I diabetes and brand B treats type 2. Most consumers know what they are getting from a text ad and do not expect every single product detail.

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