In a move that the agency says is aimed to crack down on deceptive, word-of-mouth marketing, the consumer protection agency will start to insist that online peer-to-peer communication in which a marketer is paying for promotional consideration must be revealed by those receiving the money.
How could this affect you? Here's a hypothetical. Say you are a college student. You make lots of calls over your cell, and possibly, from your dorm room via an Internet phone calling plan.
So let's just say I am an on-campus rep for Vonage, or Skype, or Verizon Wireless, or Discover Card, for that matter. I pay you, struggling college student, $10 for a positive endorsement on your MySpace or Facebook page. Or maybe even give you a few months of free service for writing something like: "hey, Caitlin again here. Guess what: I'm now a Vonage customer..it's cool, let me tell you about it."
This isn't law yet. From reading the FTC opinion, it's well on the way, though. And for reasons I don't quite get, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association seems to like this measure.
I do know that motivation for this initiative comes from marketing campaigns such as the one by Sony Ericsson Mobile for its T68i camera-enabled mobile phone. The "Fake Tourist" campaign used actors posing as tourists in Seattle and New York to demonstrate the camera phone. "Hey, what's that phone dude..leads to passing out of literature the "Tourist" has on his or her person.
Disclosure. You get the idea.
Look, I get a kick out of shedding the light on campaigns where the consumer's chain is being yanked. But if a consumer electronics marketer wants to pay MySpace or Facebook users for a favorable mention, then whose business is it, really?
That's what I think. I'd like to know what you think.