FTC and Viral Marketers May Square Off
AdAge reports that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is moving closer to a proposed plan that will begin regulating viral marketing and blogs. Regardless of what side of the political fence you are on it’s starting to get a bit scary as to just how much the government wants to be the overseer of everything.
Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC’s advertising-practices division puts it this way
“The commission is attempting to update guidelines that are 30 years old so that they address current marketing techniques,” he said, “and in particular to address the issue of whether or not the safe harbor that’s currently allowed for ‘result not typical’-type disclaimers is still warranted.”
It looks like the center of this intensified scrutiny is for bloggers who are paid for their posts by marketers. Of course, if the government wants to make someone appear as if they are MUI (marketing under the influence) one has to think that what looks like perfectly acceptable guidelines initially, could likely be blurred enough to make life unpleasant for virtually anyone the government wants to target. I’m not a big conspiracy theory guy but I have to think that if the government is given an inch that they will take full advantage of expanded influence and power well beyond a mile.
On the flip side, it seems that this could possibly help the blogosphere by lending more credibility to reviews. Jim Nail, chief marketing officer of TNS Media Intelligence has this to say
“The thing that makes word-of-mouth marketing powerful is people believing they are getting truthful and honest opinions from real users,” Mr. Nail said. “If people start disbelieving word-of-mouth marketing as much as they disbelieve advertising, we are in deep trouble.”
So it seems once again that the free market and some of its underlying principles are not enough anymore. This summer is the timeframe for these revisions to be voted on so change could be coming quickly.
Some fear that if the revisions are approved, marketers could be scared away from new-media marketing efforts.
“It’s possible there will be a hangover period, but it will self-correct,” said Joe Chernov, VP-communications at BzzAgent. “People get nervous when the government gets involved, and it’s possible the blogosphere will influence the trajectory of how brands respond.”
So, Pilgrim readers, how do you feel about the government telling us what can and can’t be said? Does this approach simply turn social media outlets, including Facebook, into another outlet for one way advertising pitches which then renders it no different than traditional media? If the free flow conversation is monitored and regulated what happens to the appeal of being on the outside of traditional media and being more open and honest? With Big Brother wanting to monitor every word and message at what point does free speech stop being free? Let’s hear it.