UK: beware of advertorials

The growth of the social media industry within the last decade has been unprecedented. With Facebook now having more than a billion active users, and Twitter more than 200 million, there is no doubting the influence of these networks. As the social media platforms seek to monetarise their business models, there are increasing opportunities for companies to market directly to their consumers. However, the close and personal interaction afforded by these sites often treads a fine line between consumer protection legislation and the sites’ own terms and conditions.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 establish the principal consumer protection laws in the UK. The regulations use the concept of an average consumer, of a particular group, as a benchmark from which to assess whether marketing messages are unfair or misleading. This is particularly relevant for social media as clearly one of its great advantages is the ability to target particular demographic groups precisely. Companies should therefore be aware that when targeting groups that may be considered vulnerable, such as children or the elderly, the content and sensitivity of their communications must be adapted accordingly…

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