TV Newsrooms Air the Darndest Things

Should "viral" videos, produced and placed online by marketers but circulated by amused viewers, be labeled as advertising? Commercial Alert says yes, and the Center for Digital Democracy agrees that "marketer-generated viral video violates consumer privacy." The videos, often posted on social networking sites, "are not identified as commercial speech" and it's "often difficult to establish who is behind" them. On November 6, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission will host hearings on "Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-ade." According to AdAge, "The biggest worry ... is that viral videos, much like video news releases, are blurring ethical lines. In August, a video produced by TaxBrain aired on local news broadcasts in a stunning 125 U.S. markets across the country. The video showed a man trying to make off with a race car before being stopped and shoved to the ground by security at the racetrack. ... Tracey Watkowski, assistant news director at San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO, one of the stations that reported on the incident, called the incident -- and the use of that type of marketing -- 'despicable.'"