Monday, October 5, 2009

So, you want to be a buzz agent?

You might want to think twice if you are considering blogging on behalf of a brand and receive some kind of payment or freebie. As new media become mainstream, it is incumbent upon the regulators, like the FTC, to revise their guidelines governing such changes in arenas where media and marketing converge. In fact, this is the first time since 1980 that the Federal Trade Commission has revised those guidelines on endorsements and testimonials; they guidelines will now cover bloggers who get paid to promote products and services. I think it’s good to see government regulators moving on this issue as consumers become more complicit in the marketing of products and services. Not only are word of mouth marketers like Buzz Agent involved in this newer form of communicating, but so are sponsors who are taking advantage of Twitter, compensating some consumers for plugging their products for a fee. The October 15 issue of Time magazine, includes an article on paid tweeting, which is controversial, as consumers don’t know if the endorsement is authentic or paid. When the advantage goes this far against the consumer, it’s incumbent upon the government to step in and do something to level the playing field. In this case, the FTC has updating its guidelines. I think it’s odd, however, that consumers themselves are participating in this new practice. Maybe this is just the ugly side of participatory advertising.


Stevie said...

The other day I was on the phone with one of my friends and she informed me of a new website that corresponds directly with this idea. The website that she told me about has various sponsors including ESPN and Starbucks. It attracts customers by offering coupons and discounts if you purchase their products online. If I were to go online and sign up for this website and then from there tell others about it, I would profit. The more people I told the more cash I would make. It is free to sign up, you simply go on their website, create an account and then spread the word. If your friends enter your name when they log onto the website then your account profits and the site will actually send you money in the mail. For simply telling your friends about this site, you will receive a check in the mail, how crazy is that? It requires no labor just simply offering coupon deals to your friends and family. Are advertisers becoming so desperate that they are willing to pay their customers- the people they are usually trying to make money off of?

Casey said...

I think this is definitely the ugly side of advertising. I find it very odd that consumers are putting other consumers in a bad position by pretending to be advocates of a product that they truly are not. Obviously the incentives provided by these companies, such as money or coupons, overrules the idea that they are deceiving their fellow consumers. It is extremely unfair to have people gain a profit from false advertising. I think it will be extremely beneficial for consumers that the FTC will be regulating the new media outlets because it will make bloggers more conscious that they are deceiving others and hopefully stop unfair advertising. But this raises the question, how will the FTC actually regulate the Internet? I guess we will find out soon.

kdpiper said...

I also believe that entities such as the FTC should regulate this type of advertising. As we have discussed on a couple different occasions in class, the most trustworthy form of advertising in consumer-generated buzz. If other consumers are talking positively about a particular product, we tend to believe that this product really is worth something since other "real people" say so instead of advertisers. But, if our peers are falsely glorifying products in order to receive payment from companies, then where can we find the real truth about products? If we can't even trust our peers to tell the truth, who can we trust?