If you mess with the buzz, you’ll get a visit from the fuzz. Marketing blogs are buzzing about this Ad Age article, which throws a suspicious eye on buzz marketing while reporting that it may even prove to be illegal.
“If the motivation for [an endorser] is to profit from his or her endorsement, that connection probably needs to be disclosed,” said Douglas Wood, chairman of advertising and marketing law at Reed Smith. “But since disclosure undermines the value of buzz marketing, advertisers are in a Catch-22.”
An FTC official said while word-of-mouth isn’t something that the agency is looking at, disclosing commercial relationships is crucial to avoid violating the law. “The real question is whether consumers are being misled someway,” said Rich Cleland, an assistant director of advertising practices for the FTC.”
Of course they are! This is deceptive marketing. C’mon folks! Why does the freakin’ FCC have to be involved when discussing a marketing tactic like buzz marketing. A bad and disingenous tactic, one that paradoxically becomes less and less effective as it is being deployed more and more. What has the consumer to look forward to? Should she be thankful that the FCC may get involved in regulating her conversations? Should she cast doubt on all her informal conversations and brand choices?
And doesn’t a marketing tactic that has the potential to be illegal naturally harm the industry as a whole? The proliferation of buzz marketing is certainly a result of the consumer tuning-out and disbelieving marketing messages. And now the consumer has something more to tune out and disbelieve.
So to all of us out there, let’s remember one thing: BUZZ — OR INAUTHENTIC WORD-OF-MOUTH — IS NOT MARKETING. So stay off the buzz, kids. I know it’s addictive. I know it feels good and is cheap to get. But, take my word for it, it will get you busted and you will go to jail.