Just Because You Get Others To Do Your Deceptive Advertising For You, It Doesn't Change That It's Deceptive
from the so-sayeth-the-FTC dept
Much of the discussion around this statement from the FTC has bloggers pointing to controversial advertising firm PayPerPost, who pays people to post reviews of products -- but doesn't require disclosure and often requires only positive things being said about it. PayPerPost doesn't really care about the actual reviews, as they're simply an elaborate search engine spamming system, designed to drive up the search engine rankings for their customers, but it's actually not at all clear that they're really the ones at risk here. The question, really, is whether it should be the person doing the word of mouth marketing who's being considered deceptive, or the firm that has given them the incentives to be deceptive. In some cases, where a firm has directly hired people for the purpose of being deceptive, you could make an argument that they are complicit. However, if they're just enabling the tools for people to spread the word about a product, and one of those people does something deceptive, the situation gets pretty cloudy pretty fast.
In the meantime, in chatting with some of the folks at the Summit, one thing has become clear. Beyond the quixotic quest for better metrics, too many companies that are embracing the concept of "word of mouth marketing" seem to be missing the point. They focus on "WoM" campaigns -- as if they were the same thing as an advertising campaign. True word of mouth efforts don't come about as the result of any specific campaign, but rather an effort to make a good product or service that people believe in which they'd want to talk about, and making it easier for them to do so. In other words, focus on the product and then get the hell out of the way. If you're trying to program the message as part of a campaign, it's no longer word of mouth marketing.