Time to Get Real (Time)

Originally posted on the Holmes Report.

The word disclosure is all the rage these days, but did you know that back in 2000, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued some guidelines on online advertising called “Dot Com Disclosures”—and hasn’t updated them since? That’s a lifetime, or two, ago in Internet time.

Think about it: Can you even fathom how different the digital space is now? Do you remember life before iPhone/Pad/Chat? And, most important, the Internet was not the bastion of social media that it is today. The world of digi has changed beyond anything we recognize from more than a decade ago, and marketers have a million ways to reach consumers online, applying the FTC’s guidelines as best they can to today’s technologies. So why is the government so snail-like in its reaction time? Can you imagine if those of us in marketing and PR were playing by the same rules we followed more than 10 years ago?

Clearly, the government has realized, just like the rest of us, that it needs to react in real time (or something close) to the ever evolving and changing online universe. And, much like many of us do to get information we need in all aspects of our lives, the FTC is currently crowdsourcing comments and suggestions from the general public to see what’s applicable going forward in terms of disclosure in online ads.

It’s interesting to think about how big business has stepped in in terms of leading technology and innovation throughout the world. Young people are looking up to business leaders to make decisions and change the world. If the U.S. government does not become more nimble, stealth and warpishly fast, it’s not going to be possible for it to keep up.

And as America continues to lose ground in its technological wunderkind status, now is a more crucial time than ever for the government to be rapid-firing in terms of how consumers are receiving advertising and marketing messages. Just as the disclosure rules outlaw “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in Internet advertising, so, too, must the government watch out for deceiving itself and unfairly believing that the same rules of a decade ago apply to our world today.

Let’s hope the FTC doesn’t wait another 10 years to reform this ever-evolving medium for marketers, because Madison Avenue and today’s consumers can’t afford to wait.

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