evil-lurksApparently I’ve been under a rock this last week. I just learned that on October 5, 2009 the FTC has new guidelines for advertising, blog endorsements, and testimonials.

The biggest target of these new guidelines is going to be faux viral marketing efforts in my opinion. An example would be when a company recruits bloggers/3rd parties of any sort (even celebrities) to talk about their products/services in exchange for a free product, cash, or other service.

Most viral marketing efforts online are done using social media. It has been growing rapidly. Social Media spending has reached $1.35 Billion in 2007 and is expected to reach $3.7 Billion by 2011 according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

The big social media platforms look like they are going to be monitored. Look for FTC agents to “friend” you on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter (LOL).

I believe though, these new guidelines are going to also affect those advertisement website (web page really) whose scrolling down never ends, with countless of fake testimonials from individuals that are not really credential. And at the end, they have a ridiculous price, or no price at all until you click on payment to get you to sign up. I mean, it’s just a single webpage, but yet people still signup and fall for it every time. Usually the main products they are selling are e-books, or SEO Expert tools of some sort.

Actually, now that I think about it, every industry, every niche, online and offline is going to be affected. In the guidelines it also specifies that “extraordinary results” can no longer be used, but only on average results/testimonials; so no more “results may vary”, or “these results are not common” practice.

In a nutshell a blogger or celebrity must now disclose their endorsement properly and also the payments that where made to them in detail (cash, goods, freebies, etc.)

Read the full FTC guideline.

I believe this will eliminate a lot of bad apples online, but only in the United States. So, it comes down to bloggers/celebrities around the world can say whatever they want, but not in the USA. The real problem here is that the FTC doesn’t really have control over the Internet. It’s not in “US territory”. The Internet is worldwide, and there is really no “Internet Police”.

The Internet is still like the Wild Wild West, and its evolution will continue. These bad apples can simply “move” to another country, and start making the claims again. There will always be scammers that slip through the cracks, and now policing the whole internet, and attempt to make sure no one lies seems too big of a task for even the FTC. What has happened in the past will continue to happen, the bad apples will continue pushing the limit, and the FTC will step in on the major ones they can find, but catching them all? It’s impossible.

One thing I am thankful for is that companies who are doing the right thing and not attempting to sneak around with deceptive practices will slightly have a better chance of getting their voices heard over the would be scammers.

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what do you think about the FTC new guidelines, and some of the gray areas that have been left for interpretation? Do you think that the FTC can police the Internet? Successfully?