Turmoil Surrounds Introduction of WOMMA Standards

Following the introduction of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's Code of Conduct, a heated discussion surrounding the association's statement against including children under 13 in word of mouth campaigns and it's apparent neglect in establishing guidelines for children 13-17. While we hope WOMMA's intentions are honorable, both the Viral and Buzz Marketing Association and the National Institute on Media and the Family have taken issue with some current word of mouth marketing efforts. Last fall at the New York AD:TECH show, a conference about online marketing, VBMA founder Justin Kirby and a NIMF audience member questioned the practices of Boston-based BzzAgent, a company which recruits people to join the company as buzz agents who "talk up" the products of paying marketers. The NIMF audience member challenged BzzAgent to change its policy which urges its buzz agents to be "discreet" when talking about the products they have agreed to buzz about. While BzzAgent said they would revisit their policy to perhaps urge agents to be more forthright with the reason they are talking up a product, NIMF claims no policies have been changed.

BzzAgent Founder Dave Balter counters NIMF's claim the company's code has not changed saying, "We changed this code over two months ago because we realized that our code was out of date."

Balter also claims NIMF was premature in its attack on the WOMMA Code of Ethics saying, "We appreciate the Institute's feedback. However, we (WOMMA) were concerned about the glaring inaccuracies in the Institute's press release, beginning with their failure to note that this was not an established code, but a starting point and request for input."

Balter further lays blame on NIMF for not responding to WOMMA's requests for input during the establishment of the Code. "We did in fact contact them back in December, asking them to help us draft a more effective code. They never responded, choosing to attack instead of contribute."

As heated as this issue may have become, Balter simply wants to move forward and work with interested parties to establish effective and mutually acceptable guidelines. "we are in complete agreement that the need to protect minors is a critical issue. And we look forward to working with leading educational, consumer, and children's advocacy organizations in making sure that the bar is set properly high."

by Steve Hall    Feb-11-05   Click to Comment   

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