Ken Bone: Breakout Star, Violator of FTC Guides?

One thing folks on both sides of the political aisle can agree upon is that Ken Bone left the second presidential debate as a breakout star. But he may have tripped up when attempting to capitalize on his fame by sending a promotional tweet for Uber.

Bone and his red sweater made just as many headlines as the candidates after he appeared as one of the undecided voters on the stage at the second debate and asked about energy policy.

In the days that followed, Bone rode the wave of his new fame with talk show appearances and a plug for car service Uber. As part of the company's launch of a black car service in St. Louis, Bone tweeted: "Everyone wants to know if I've decided … and I have. uberSELECT helps you ride in style like me." Those who followed a link and entered promo code "KENBONE" received $20 off their ride.

However, Bone failed to indicate that his tweet was sponsored, as required by the Federal Trade Commission's Endorsement Guides. While the Guides don't mandate the specific wording of disclosures, the agency recommends using words such as "advertising" or "promotion," and when facing character limits on social media platforms such as Twitter, "#ad."

When contacted about the problem, Uber indicated that the company provided Bone with Uber credit for his role in the launch. Bone did not respond when asked for a comment about the issue, but later deleted his promotional tweet and sent a new one apologizing: "#ad didn't know I had to do that. Sorry folks."

Why it matters: Uber certainly got publicity by making a connection with Bone, who said he had seven Twitter followers before the debate (two of whom were his grandmothers) and more than 200,000 afterwards. Whether Bone will remain a public figure remains to be seen, but at least he's aware of the requirements of the FTC Guides if he gets another endorsement opportunity.



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