Is Stealth Marketing Illegal? Introduction of outlines of laws and regulations, examples of problems, and countermeasures

One of the things you have to be careful about when doing marketing activities is “ stealth marketing (stemma)”. From October 1, 2023, stealth marketing will be designated as “misleading representation” prohibited by the Act against Premiums and Misleading Representations , so let’s deepen our understanding.

This time, we will introduce an overview of stealth marketing , the background of problems , examples of problems , countermeasures , etc. We will also explain the tightening of regulations from October 1, 2023, so please take a look.

Table of contents

  1. What is stealth marketing
  2. Why Stealth Marketing Is Problematic
  3. Regulations on Stealth Marketing Tightened from October 1, 2023
  4. 3 cases where stealth marketing became a problem
  5. Measures to avoid being considered stealth marketing
  6. Avoid Stealth Marketing and Advertise Correctly

What is stealth marketing

Stealth marketing is one of the marketing methods, and it is the act of transmitting advertisements and word of mouth of products and services so that consumers do not notice that they are advertisements or promotions.

Stealth marketing is a general form of information dissemination that hides the fact that a third party is advertising a product at the request of a company.

For example, the following actions are considered stealth marketing :

Why Stealth Marketing Is Problematic

There are two main reasons why stealth marketing is considered a problem.

lead to deceiving consumers

One of the problems with stealth marketing is that it leads to deceiving consumers.

According to a survey conducted by JustSystems Inc., 64.6 % of respondents to the question, ” Do you trust consumer word-of-mouth and reviews ( UGC ) when purchasing products and services? “

While many consumers trust UGC in this way , if word of mouth and reviews spread through stealth marketing , consumers will not be able to make correct decisions and choices.

And if stealth marketing is discovered, consumers will feel deceived, which will inevitably lead to loss of trust in the company and damage to the brand image .

Risk of fire

Stealth marketing is a method of hiding the fact that it is an advertisement from consumers, so if the actual situation comes to light, there is a great risk of criticism and flames.

In today’s world where the number of SNS users is increasing, it is easy to spread negative posts such as “The company called XX is doing stealth marketing .”

If you go up in flames on SNS, an article summarizing the content of the flames will be created or reported in the media, and there is a possibility that the damage will spread further.

It is important to be aware that once a company catches fire, not only the sales of products advertised through stealth marketing , but also the sales of the company as a whole may decline .

Should we take risk measures? 5 risks on SNS and countermeasures

We will introduce 5 examples of risk flaming on SNS and methods of risk countermeasures.

Regulations on Stealth Marketing Tightened from October 1, 2023

From October 1, 2023, legislation on stealth marketing by the Consumer Affairs Agency will come into effect.

Under this law, stealth marketing is designated as “misrepresentation” under the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations, and businesses may be subject to penalties and fines if they violate the regulations.

What will change by being added to the target of “misrepresentation”?

Under the laws and regulations that will be enforced from October 1, 2023, “indications that make it difficult for general consumers to determine that they are the indications of a business operator” will be regulated as unfair indications.

In other words, it is subject to regulations* to hide the fact that it is a business operator’s indication or to indicate it in a way that makes it difficult to understand .

For example, cases that are likely to be subject to regulation are as follows.


Even if a business operator provides a product or service to a third party such as an influencer/affiliate, there is no problem in requesting that the product be freely reviewed.

In order not to be subject to regulation, it will be important to clearly indicate the display of “PR” and “promotion” so that it can be understood that it is a display by the business operator .

3 cases where stealth marketing became a problem

Here are three cases of stealth marketing that have become problematic in the past.

Walt Disney Japan “Frozen 2”

On December 3, 2019, seven comics expressing impressions of the movie “Frozen 2” were posted on Twitter at the same time , and due to the unnaturalness of it, people on SNS questioned whether it was stealth marketing .

The film’s distributor, Walt Disney Japan, explained, “We were originally planning to have the creator clearly state that it was a PR, but communication between the parties involved was not good enough, and it was dropped.”

The company has announced that it will review its communication system in the future and take measures to prevent recurrence.

Microsoft “Xbox One”

This is an example of “Xbox One” sold by Microsoft in the United States.

As an effort to promote sales, the company has implemented a campaign to pay $ 3 (about 300 yen) for every 1,000 views by posting a video of 30 seconds or more using “Xbox One ” .

When this campaign was made known to users of a certain video site via e-mail and SNS , there were voices saying, “Isn’t it stealth marketing ?”

In general, it’s okay to post videos of yourself playing the Xbox One and get paid, provided that the third party has made it clear that you’re affiliated with the advertiser and that you’re getting paid to promote it .

However, it was pointed out that this campaign was something that could be recognized as hiding what a third party was posting as an advertisement , and it was considered stealth marketing and became a problem.

Kakaku.com Inc. Tabelog

This is an example of “Tabelog,” a restaurant search and reservation site operated by Kakaku.com.

The site has reviews and scores from people who have used the store , and rankings based on that.

However, in January 2012, it was discovered that there were 39 companies that received money in return for posting favorable reviews to restaurants and raising their rankings .

Since then, Kakaku.com has established the following guidelines to prevent fraud.

  • Prohibition of posting by store staff
  • Prohibition of posting for the purpose of compensation (money, goods or services)
  • Do not give score impact to users who are judged to be likely to engage in fraudulent activities such as stealth marketing

Measures to avoid being considered stealth marketing

Based on the cases introduced this time and the legal regulations from October 1, 2023, it is thought that the following three points should be noted in order not to be regarded as stealth marketing .

  • Clearly indicate that it is an advertisement
  • Do not specify the posted content from the business side
  • Check whether it violates the operation standards published by the Consumer Affairs Agency

As long as it is clear that it is an advertisement by a business operator, it is not subject to regulation , so when asking influencers and affiliates for advertisement, it is important to have them display ” advertisement “, “promotion”, “PR” etc.

In addition, if the company asks influencers to post specific content, it will be subject to regulation, so let them post freely .

In addition, since the Consumer Affairs Agency has released the following operating standards , it is necessary to consider marketing measures based on them.

Avoid Stealth Marketing and Advertise Correctly

If you do stealth marketing , there is a risk that it will not only go up in flames on social media, but also reduce trust and sales as a company.

Even if you do not intend to engage in stealth marketing , if you hide the fact that it is an advertisement or publicity, or display it in a way that makes it difficult to understand, it may be regarded as stealth marketing .

In order to promote sales in the right way, let’s consider and implement marketing measures after deepening your understanding of stealth marketing .

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