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Regulation and Traditional vs. New Media Marketing and Advertising

A hot topic in the current online media community as well as the business/legal arena has been the topic of regulating advertising and affiliate marketing. Advertising historically has consisted of traditional mediums such as television, radio, print, outdoor collateral and product placement, just to name a few. In the last decade, additional avenues such as the web, branded entertainment, viral videos and blogs have changed the direction of advertising and marketing dramatically. This has begged the question of whether regulation on a new level was necessary and to what degree the Federal Trade Commission should require mandatory disclosure of advertising.

The first step is defining advertising in broad terms. Advertising is almost any communication with consumers. Because of the breadth of this definition advertisers and markets are held to high standards both statewide and federally. The FTC has prohibited advertising and marketing that is deemed to be “unfair or deceptive”. This is further defined as any advertising that is likely to materially mislead the average reasonable consumer.

But what does that mean to us as consumers? The FTC has recognized the evolving challenges presented by new media advertising and marketing and has created mandatory “clear and conspicuous” disclosure rules. Under the FTC standards, any disclosures must be easily accessible, in a large enough print and understandable by the average consumer. The line is drawn at whether the disclosure is considered “unfair” to consumers. This includes any advertising which is contradictory, in “mouse type” or disclosures made after the fact.

To advertisers and marketers this means additional challenges and uncertainty in promoting their product or message to targeted consumers. One way around the challenges is to promote user-generated content, to make advertising more integrated as a conversation then as obvious as a banner ad or flier. This also allows for a dialog on a topic which can generate ongoing viral exposure on multiple media properties simultaneously. Not only does this advertising “conversation” adhere to the FTC standards, but it minimizes in many ways the previously required budget necessary to reach the same number of consumers.

The takeaway here for business owners is this: Advertising and marketing is evolving into new hybrids. The recognition of multiple new outlets for all things marketing and advertising is not only suggested but almost required in this day and age. And why not jump on the bandwagon. If “new media” simultaneously helps you bottom line and minimizes potential liabilities, I’m all for it.

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