At Pelican PR we believe it’s good news for the PR industry that the Office of Fair Trading has announced that it will take action against celebrities who plug brands online without revealing they are getting paid for the endorsement.
Brands have not been slow to make the most of the PR opportunity provided by Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
As the popularity of social media has grown, brands have used a range of tactics to grab the limelight. Amongst the most popular has been trying to get celebrities to tweet or blog about a product that the supposedly can’t live without to their thousands of followers.
Many brands have seen online celebrity plugs as an extension of traditional endorsement and have been prepared to pay for the privilege. This is not surprising, as unlike sponsorship or advertising, online endorsement seems to have come unprompted from the celeb and is seen as independent.
Thankfully the OFT has announced plans that could affect actors, pop stars and TV presenters who fail to mention that they have a financial interest in ‘plugging’ goods such as cars or perfumes online.
National papers reported that the likes of actress Liz Hurley and singer Lily Allen, may face possible court action – see Daily Mail report.
The first such case of its kind was brought last year against a PR firm which was found to be paying bloggers to write in glowing terms about the company’s clients. Now enforcement officers are examining possible breaches of the law by celebrities involved in secret deals with manufacturers of luxury goods.
Clearly this kind of paid for endorsement should be explicit. It damages brands and it damages the PR industry by creating the impression that consumers are being misled.
PR consultancies can still deliver great social media campaigns on the back of paid for endorsements. Trying to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes can only lead to negative feedback and bad publicity, because online, if you mislead you will be found out and the backlash will be overwhelming.