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With blogs being reported as a more trusted source of information (24 percent) than television advertising (17 percent) and email marketing (14 percent) in a recent European Hotwire survey, it’s no wonder that advertisers are scrambling to own a piece of this prime real estate to get their messages seen.

For those who aren’t up to speed on the lingo, blogs are a form of personal online publishing for posting opinions and comments, known as web logs, or blogs for short – such as the one you are reading right now.

“Flogs” as the term has been coined (or fake blogs) however, have seen on a rapid rise as brands continue to look for new and innovative ways to reach their target markets.

Advertisers have quickly realised the power of tapping into the word of mouth possibilities online by getting bloggers to endorse brands and products. What they didn’t reckon on, was the backlash of online audiences when the discovery is made that members of their community are being paid to endorse products – and worse, and not disclosing it.

According to the United States Federal Trade Commission, not disclosing that a blogger is being compensated by a marketer for posting their opinions on a brand, is highly unethical and could be potentially illegal.

Sony recently issued an apology for it’s “All I want for Christmas is a PlayStation Portable” blog, where a blogger was paid to praise the Playstation.

YouTube and MySpace have also certainly seen their fair share of finger-pointing, but the hardest and sharpest fingers are the ones pointing at the brands.

It is reported that Technorati is currently tracking some 63 suspicious blogs.

Whilst this is certainly a clever ploy for marketers to tap into a truly connected world where word-of-mouth can happen faster than anywhere else, what it boils down to is misleading consumers. This certainly wouldn’t be tolerated in any other medium, and the same holds true for online.

In this very connected online world, it is far quicker for a brand to be damaged than it is to gain the favour marketers originally seek out. Fully disclosing the association with the advertiser will go a long way to avoiding any negativity and ultimately, legal battles.

Marketers need to tread cautiously if they wish to continue playing in what can be very murky waters. Partnering with digital experts who understand how to do this smartly and ethically, is key if marketers wish to succeed in an online world.

thirtyfour

thirtyfour is a brand activation agency where creativity counts - not just for creativity’s sake, but strategic, channel-neutral solutions that creates demand in the minds of consumers and ultimately deliver genuine results. It promises liberated thinking in retail, experiential, direct, digital and sports marketing to get out of the rut of traditional advertising campaigns.
February 2007
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