OFT targets Twitter brand champions

Undeclared endorsement based tweets could soon be a thing of the past if the Office of Fair Trading gets its way.

The government's consumer watchdog has begun a crackdown after it discovered a PR firm, Handpicked Media, was paying well-known Twitter users to tweet about the brands that it represents.

"Online promotional activity, just like any other promotional activity, must clearly identify when promotions and editorial comment have been paid for, so that consumers are not misled", read a statement.

"Handpicked Media operates a network of bloggers and niche websites across a variety of sectors. Through the signed undertakings, it has agreed not to engage in promotional activity unless bloggers within its network prominently disclose, in a manner unavoidable to the average consumer, that the promotion has been paid for or otherwise remunerated".

What this means is that the OFT now wants paid-for tweets to be clearly marked. In the States, where paid-for-tweets are big business, the US Federal Trade Commission states that endorsements must contain the words "ad" or "spon".

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who has more than 5.6 million followers, can earn herself up to $10,000 just for tweeting. Arnie Gullov-Singh, chief executive officer of Ad.ly, a Twitter-based advertising firm said: "Her price keeps going up. The most effective ones can get six figures a year, and in some cases six figures a quarter".

Heather Clayton, senior director of OFT's Consumer Group, said:

"The internet plays a key role in how people purchase products and services and the importance of online advertising continues to grow. The OFT has bolstered its expertise in this area and is taking targeted action to ensure that the law is clear, increase business compliance and empower consumers.

"We expect online advertising and marketing campaigns to be transparent so consumers can clearly tell when blogs, posts and microblogs have been published in return for payment or payment in kind. We expect this to include promotions for products and services as well as editorial content".

We at Pocket-lint would just like to point out that all of our tweets are impartial and not-paid for. But we do love Curly Wurlys and would be happy to express our feelings for the caramel-based stretchy bar of goodness (in less than 140 characters, of course) for £150 upwards.

Other sweets and snacks will also be considered.



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