It comes as no surprise that the Office of Fair Trading, (OFT) has confirmed that on line marketing and PR practices that do not disclose the fact they include paid for promotions are deceptive and a breach of the Consumer Protection regulations, (CPRs). ReACTS has been advising marketers to beware for some time about such practices, and the issue is covered in our Ad Guide on Social Media.

The latest announcement comes as the OFT investigated a company called Handpicked Media and found that it had broken rules of disclosure by purchasing  blogposts and tweets for sponsored promotions without disclosing the fact clearly. While the OFT may not wish to instigate a clamp down on this sort of activity itself  but the ruling underlines clearly the law in this area and strengthens the hand of the ASA when it takes over self regulation of promotional messages on the Internet in March 2011.

In its press release The OFT’s has now stated unequivocally that  ” We expect on line advertising and marketing campaigns to be transparent so consumers can clearly tell when blogs, posts and microblogs have been published in return for payment or payment in kind. We expect this to include promotions for products and services as well as editorial content.’

There are hundreds of sponsored blogs, tweets, viral films, and use of brand ambassadors which hide the fact that these individuals are being paid to comment on products and services. Being transparent is crucial to protect the reputation of your brand and ensure compliance with the law.