Every so often, the FTC comes out with a new rule. The latest target of regulations, stress and discomfort is clearly advertising. It’s not just plain advertising, though, it’s anything that might be loosely used as marketing or advertising to put a brand out in front of the public, Internet advertising included. Their target is testimonial advertisements, bloggers and celebrity endorsements.
I recently had the pleasure of reading a portion of the regulation. My first thought after sifting through the legalese was it sounded rather harsh to me. Then I had time to think about it. The concept is not completely new, now it’s just in an official form with some teeth. In short, if you are being paid or merely encouraged to say nice things about a company or product, either be up front about it or don’t agree to do it.
The new regulations are not really taking anyone by surprise, but it is causing a bit of a panic and wholesale policy changes for companies that do a lot of advertising or content publishing online. It’s a topic that has been hashed and rehashed by Internet marketing blogs nonstop for the past few weeks.
So let’s look at the other side. What effect will it have on the consumer? Probably not much. How many people believe everything they see and hear, especially on the Web? My guess is zero. People have their filters up. They may listen to the message, but until they see the real thing with their own eyes or hear it with their own ears, they will remain skeptical. You can blog until the cows come home about how great something is and most people will automatically assume you have a hidden agenda – even if you don’t.
Most of us naturally assume we are wearing a bull’s-eye 24/7. But since there might be one person somewhere that just arrived from Wonderland that doesn’t have their filters up and believes everything they see and hear, the FTC is protecting them from the barrage of biased stories and reviews, comments and ads. After all, its job is to protect the consumer.
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