Advertising regulation is always a challenge for the FTC. There is a lot of advertising, and the technology of advertising always moves forward.
Not surprisingly, one part of the proposed up-date addresses the growing range of product and brand commentary on blogs, bulletin boards, and non-electronic communication such as "street teams."
It is important to recognize that the FTC regulates only actions that are "in commerce." This means a blogger or ordinary citizen with no material commercial connection to a brand or product does not fall under the law enforcement umbrella of the FTC.
Here is the link to download the pdf of the FTC proposal published in the Federal Register on Friday, November 28, 2008.
The proposal process is important. Congress established the FTC as an agency of experts on commercial practices responsible for maintaining a fair and efficient marketplace and for protecting consumers. The proposal, public comments, and subsequent hearings by the FTC are all part of a review and discovery process leading to regulatory policies that keep pace with the times.
In advertising and consumer research, we have long known that consumers give first priority to interpersonal information, especially from friends or others perceived to be as friends. This points to the importance of regulation concerning the presence and possible effects of material commercial relationships in what otherwise might be perceived to be unbiased interpersonal communication.
It is all about maintaining an effective marketplace for discerning consumers and scrupulous businesses. We even look to the needs of the foolish consumer as well.
Deceptive or untrue information has no value in the marketplace. It hurts consumers, businesses and undermines advertising credibility.
And... a disclosure of my own... I once served as Deputy Assistant Director for National Advertising at the FTC.