PR firm Reverb Communications is in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for creating video game reviews at Apple’s iTunes store by posing as unbiased consumers, instead of the paid professional flacks they were. Now there is a somewhat fine line out there in the online world between fandom, fannish shilling and paid shilling, and the FTC frowns highly on the last item in that list if it’s undisclosed. Frowns in it so highly it even requires bloggers at any level of readership and popularity disclose a paid-for ad.
(Full disclosure: I occasionally run sponsored posts I’ve created for clients. Those posts beginning December 1, 2001, as per FTC regulations are clearly marked with a “sponsored” disclaimer. And to add a shameless ad to this aside, if you are interested in a sponsored post on this blog, hit the about page for contact information.)
And as a bit of advice to Reverb Comm., try to stay on right side of the FTC. It can make your life fairly unpleasant. Plus the bad PR your clients get hit with when shenanigans like this get exposed kill your viral efforts.
From the first link way up there in the first sentence:
US regulators have said a public relations firm has agreed to settle charges that it had employees pose as unbiased videogame buyers and post reviews at Apple’s online iTunes store.
The deal requires Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, to remove such potentially deceptive reviews and refrain from the practice, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
“Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising,” said FTC division of advertising practices director Mary Engle.
“Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”