Buzz Cut

The logo for word of mouth marketing company BzzAgent.

The nonprofit advocacy group Commercial Alert is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether buzz marketers are violating federal law prohibiting deceptive advertising. In a six-page letter, Consumer Alert director Gary Ruskin details numerous instances of corrupt practices. "Buzz marketing is also known as 'guerrilla' or 'stealth' marketing," Ruskin notes. "The terms are significant because they suggest the subterfuge that corporations are working on the buying public." The letter asks the FTC to review evidence that “companies are perpetrating large-scale deception upon consumers by deploying buzz marketers who fail to disclose that they have been enlisted to promote products. This failure to disclose is fundamentally fraudulent and misleading.” In particular, Ruskin urges the FTC to investigate Proctor & Gamble’s Tremor, which has enlisted about 250,000 teenagers in its buzz marketing sales force, “by issuing subpoenas to executives ... to determine whether their endorsers are disclosing that they are paid marketers.”