Truth in Word of Mouth advertising

Jon Fine in his July 10 article in BusinessWeek raises the issue of truth in advertising – the first article I have seen in a premium publication on the tropic.
He cites Ted Murphy and his company PayPerPost as examples of what, in my view, is the worst type of schilling. Bloggers sign up to the program and then include a reference (with a minimum # of words – the current list varies from 10 words to the majority needing 40-50) to one of the products in the opportunity list, in return for an amount usually around $5.
So what’s my beef? Nothing IF and only IF every blogger declares clearly and simply that this was a paid piece. In essence this is no different to running an advert -f rom Google or elsewhere – in a blog. The difference is that we can identify an advert and judge it accordingly.
My issue stems from the fact that these PPP ‘opportunities’ could (will) be included in a blog as though it is the author’s view, recommendation, or opinion – presumably in the hope that they appear as genuine view of the author. There is no requirement for having used the product or service, no advice on how to include an opportunity ethically (at least that I could find) on the PPP website.
Andy Sernovitz spoke eloquently on this topic at the recent WOMBAT conference in San Francisco. He compared the dangers of the type of WOM encouraged by PPP and the problem of spam in email. We now routinely discard all unrequested advertising in email (or at least I do, no matter if it is legitimate or not), primarily because the medium is forever tainted by porn, drug related email, etc etc.
The WOMMA states “ethical word of mouth marketers need to stand up for doing the right thing. We need to demonstrate how the good guys operate — before we are all tarnished by the bad actors.
Email marketers failed to take a stand against spammers until it was too late to restore their reputations. WOMMA members will act quickly to make sure that honest marketers get credit for doing the right things — and that unethical players are put out of business.”
If we are to avoid this situation in our profession we must act. So what can YOU do?
1 Subscribe to (that means live it, have your vendors and partners live it too) the WOMMA Code of Ethics.
2 Call or email Andy and let him know you are supporting the code of ethics
3 Complain to organizations (and, of course, boycott them!) who do not work ethically and truthfully.

Tags: WOM Ethics Marketing