We here at Urban Velo have a “material connection” to many of the makers and/or people behind the products we review. While we try to be as objective as possible it is only right, and legal, to disclose our connection to featured companies. Bike companies pay the bills around here, and we review their products. Conflicts of interest exist in the world, and this is one of them. Unless otherwise noted it is assumed that all test and review product is provided by the company in question free of charge for review purposes.
§ 255.5 Disclosure of material connections.
When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that
might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not
reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed. For example,
when an endorser who appears in a television commercial is neither represented in the
advertisement as an expert nor is known to a significant portion of the viewing public, then the
advertiser should clearly and conspicuously disclose either the payment or promise of
compensation prior to and in exchange for the endorsement or the fact that the endorser knew or
had reason to know or to believe that if the endorsement favored the advertised product some
benefit, such as an appearance on television, would be extended to the endorser. Additional
guidance, including guidance concerning endorsements made through other media, is provided by
the examples below.
Example 7: A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert
maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming
experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware
and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game
system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his
blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. Because his review is
disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the
advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the
video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the
value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they
attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously
disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. The manufacturer should
advise him at the time it provides the gaming system that this connection should be
disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for
Example 8: An online message board designated for discussions of new music download
technology is frequented by MP3 player enthusiasts. They exchange information about
new products, utilities, and the functionality of numerous playback devices. Unbeknownst
to the message board community, an employee of a leading playback device manufacturer
has been posting messages on the discussion board promoting the manufacturer’s product.
Knowledge of this poster’s employment likely would affect the weight or credibility of her
endorsement. Therefore, the poster should clearly and conspicuously disclose her
relationship to the manufacturer to members and readers of the message board.
Example 9: A young man signs up to be part of a “street team” program in which points
are awarded each time a team member talks to his or her friends about a particular
advertiser’s products. Team members can then exchange their points for prizes, such as
concert tickets or electronics. These incentives would materially affect the weight or
credibility of the team member’s endorsements. They should be clearly and conspicuously
disclosed, and the advertiser should take steps to ensure that these disclosures are being