FTC Rules Stealth Marketing Unethical

Ian Lurie

The FTC has just ruled that stealth marketing – the practice of hiring bloggers or actors to rave about products online or in person – is unethical.

They’re going to begin investigating individual complaints, for starters.

The implications for online marketing are huge.

If you are engaged in word-of-mouth marketing or any form of online buzz marketing including:

    • Paying bloggers to write about you;
    • Paying MySpace users to recommend you;
    • Building web sites that recommend your product, but don’t disclose who built them;

or anything similar, make sure you clearly state who you are.

Compliance isn’t difficult, but it’s crucial – getting busted for unethical marketing will not help you sell, and there’s no long-term upside to flirting with that kind of black eye.

Read the full staff opinion here.

If you want to learn more about word of mouth marketing and the ethical implications, see the Word of Mouth Marketing Assocation: http://womma.org/

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Do we really need the FTC to tell us that these practices are unethical? And since when did being unethical scare off many “black hat” type SEO efforts? There’s always going to be someone trying something to get better rankings and more traffic, whether it’s “right” or “wrong.” As for me, I just keep doing the things I know works and that’s building authority sites with great content that people naturally will want to link to.
    Kelley Rao, President

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