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Is it Legal to Use Paid or Fake Testimonial Videos?

If you aren’t familiar with video testimonials, you may be wondering – what’s the point? Why concern yourself with legality if you have no plan to use them? Let’s consider for a moment why testimonials are useful: obviously, when comparing two companies with a similar product, we want to choose the best. So it follows that the product with great reviews from a range of sources is going to inspire more confidence than one without. But just how powerful are these reviews?

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According to marketing expert Neil Patel, over 70% of customers look at reviews before purchasing a product. Another survey found 9 out of 10 people were influenced by positive reviews in their buying process!

Patel explains that “sincere and high-quality testimonials not only help to overcome the doubts of skeptics about your product, they even go a long way toward changing the minds of prospects who aren’t sure about the legitimacy of your product.”

This is due in part to a psychological principle known as social proof, where we look to others when we’re uncertain about a decision. If the group seems to love something, we will probably give it a chance.

Testimonials are made even stronger when put into video form. An online review is great, but we’re naturally more inclined to trust (and be persuaded by) someone when we can see their face and hear them speak.

Great, so I should start filming video testimonials today, right?

Well, not so fast. While it’s easy to create testimonial videos yourself, this isn’t always the best route. Sure, filming your own testimonials with customers might save you money in the short term, but it could cost you big down the road for at least two key reasons.

First, filming your own testimonials means you’re probably sacrificing on video quality. A video with proper lighting, editing, and some friendly coaching of customers by an experienced professional is much more powerful and persuasive than a DIY approach.

More importantly, you might be overlooking legal issues without realizing it. The consequences of breaking the law in your marketing and advertising can be incredibly expensive. Are you confident your videos are legal? What’s allowed?

Worry not, Media272 is here to help. Let’s break down some common areas of confusion:

Are fake testimonials legal?

You might see an advertisement and wonder whether you could just pay an actor or a friend to step in front of the camera and talk about how much they love your product. To avoid confusion, let’s spell this out as clearly as possible:

Fake testimonials are illegal.

This includes hiring actors, but also includes having employees pose as customers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that fake testimonials are illegal under Section 5 of the FTC Act (15 U.S.C. 45). According to the FTC:

“When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading.”

Hopefully you would steer clear of this anyway, as lying to your customers is unethical to begin with, even if it were technically allowed. Perhaps you’ve considered other sides of this, so let’s look a little closer.

Is it ever okay to have company employees provide testimonials?

Yes, actually. If you have an employee who is also a customer, they can legally give a testimonial about the products or services they’ve received.

That being said, Media272 believes that the strongest testimonials should come from unaffiliated customers. This makes the testimonial less biased, and therefore makes the video more trustworthy.

The main reason testimonials are so powerful is that they build trust with future customers. So why shoot yourself in the foot by undermining that trust from the very beginning?

So are paid testimonials legal?

You don’t want to lie to potential customers, but you still need to find previous customers willing to give a testimonial on camera. In a busy world, this can be harder than it sounds. So are you allowed to pay them for their time on camera?

So technically, yes, you can use paid testimonials. But you have to make it clear to those you’re marketing to.

According to attorney Aaron Kelly, false advertising in the U.S. is not just about the content within a given ad: “regulations also consider missing information and how omitted material can lead to consumer deception.”

Basically, if there’s a connection between the endorser and the marketer of the product that could affect how people judge the endorsement, you should share this information.

Think of it this way: if someone is paid to provide a statement about something, they may be biased, and customers have the right to know this. Therefore, you want to be as transparent as possible.

To be transparent, you need to disclose that while these are actual customers, they have been compensated for their time. At Media272, we include the following statement at the end of the video testimonials we shoot for customers to address this:

“The people shown in this video are actual customers of [our customer]. Their statements are actual experiences they’ve had with [our customer]. They received compensation for their time to record this video.”

By including this statement we follow FTC guidelines while including genuine customer statements that influence prospective customers.

Is there a better way to get video testimonials from customers?

While you could pay your previous customers to take time out of their day and record testimonials, sometimes this can feel a little strange. If you’re lucky, they might appreciate your business so much that they do it for free, but you can’t always be so fortunate.

You want to give them something for their time, but in a way that builds upon your existing relationship.

This is where Media272 can help. With our Win-Win Video package, we arrange a video shoot for the customers of your choice, and record their testimonials, following all relevant laws so you can relax.

These videos are then edited by professional videographers to give you the highest quality content possible.

But here’s the part your clients will love: while we’re on site filming these testimonials for you, we create a package of video marketing materials for the clients as well. Everybody wins!

To learn more about introducing video to your marketing strategy, follow the link below:

Want to read more? Check out these posts by Media272’s copywriter & content strategist, Drew Estes:

– Drew Estes, July 2018 –

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