May 13, 2008

Viral seeding law to be introduced on May 26th

On May 26th a new law affecting viral seeding is being introduced as part of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act 2008.

The overall idea of the new piece of legislation is to clamp down on unfair sales and marketing practices, and largely relates to brands faking positive brand messages – for example through through fake blog posting. The most famous example of this in recent times being the Sony’s “All I want for Christmas is a PSP” campaign.

The new law states:
“Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for the purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer.”

This is a strict liability offence and the IPA legal advisers have noted that it will cover activities such as:
– seeding positive messages about a brand without making it clear that the message has been created by or on behalf of the brand
– using “buzz marketing” specialists to communicate with potential consumers in social situations without disclosing that they are acting as brand ambassadors
– seeding viral ads on the internet in a manner that implies you are a simple member of the public

>> Viral seeding guidelines

To ensure our seeding process works within this new piece of legislation, we’ve created a 5 point viral seeding framework:

– Liability: The seeding agency should take full responsibility for all seeding activities, and liability for any breach of the legislation. The client should not be liable for any wrong doing relating to seeding activity.
– Video / content seeding: When seeding viral videos you should ensure the video is clearly tagged with the brand in the meta-data. All seeding will be done using established agency accounts. The same process should be used for game / content seeding.
– Blog seeding: when seeding to blogs, you should use standard online PR techniques unless an existing relationship already exists. These involve approaching relevant bloggers and openly communicating that you are seeding a piece of branded content, and asking them if they’d be interested in writing about the campaign.
– Forum / social community seeding: when seeding within forums / social communities, you should take 3 things into account: 1) you should have an established account, and be a regular contributor to the forum 2) you should make it clear within the environment that you work for a viral agency 3) you should only contribute content into the environment if its relevant.
– Training: All in-house seeders should be provided full training in the do’s and don’ts of viral seeding with reference to the new piece of legislation.

By following these guidelines, your campaign will work within the Unfair Trading Regulations Act and give it a strong chance of going viral.