LONDON: The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising  – representing UK advertising, media and marketing communications agencies – has warned members that so-called 'buzz marketing' could become illegal when the new Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations come into force on 26 May.

Buzz marketing, or in plain English, commercial communication via the internet, social networking and word of mouth, could become a criminal offence if it ...

  • Seeds positive messages about a brand in a blog without making it clear that the message has been created by, or on behalf of, that brand. 
  • Uses 'buzz marketing' specialists to communicate with potential consumers in social situations without disclosing that they are acting as brand ambassadors. 
  • Seeds viral ads on the internet in a manner that implies the person doing so is a ordinary member of the public.
Warns IPA Legal Director Marina Palomba: "If advertisers and their agencies ignore the ethics of responsible advertising, the damage to the advertising and marketing industry generally will be considerable, undermining all commercial messages, their effectiveness and the self regulatory systems."

She urges agencies and marketing departments to assess whether their activities within these areas comply with the new regulations, before they come into force in May, or risk hefty fines – even a  prison sentence.

The IPA's full briefing note can be downloaded by clicking here.

Data sourced from IPA (UK); additional content by WARC staff