Word of Mouth Faces Legally-Induced Conundrum

As word of mouth marketing spreads, lawyers, who can't keep their hands off anything, are circling the medium questioning its adherence or lack thereof to FTC guidelines. Putting it simply, Reed Smith Chairman of Advertising and Marketing Law Douglas Wood told Ad Age,"If the motivation for [an endorser] is to profit from his or her endorsement, that connection probably needs to be disclosed. But since disclosure undermines the value of buzz marketing, advertisers are in a Catch-22." That simple statement presents a gigantic problem for buzz and word of mouth marketers who, while stating they fully support disclosure, can't avoid the notion true transparency can lessen the effectiveness of this form or marketing.

UPDATE: The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has responded to the Ad Age article in Comments and clarified it's stance on word of mouth marketing on it's own site here.

Written by Steve Hall    Comments (2)     File: Viral, Word of Mouth     Oct- 4-05  
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Word of mouth isn't stealth marketing.

Word of mouth marketing is honest communications between real people and marketers.

We fight for disclosure and oppose deception.

More thoughts:

Posted by: Andy Sernovitz on October 4, 2005 06:47 PM

I first must disclose that I fully intend to make millions off of this post.

I agree with Andy. Stealth Marketing is not Word of Mouth Marketing.

You may want to ask the lawyers about a class action suit against Amazon and Google under this same premise. I unwittingly follow links to their sites and others where people profit off of the click, without disclosing it. I just thought they were making honest recommendations to me.

Please add me to the list of claimants.

Posted by: Buzzoodle Ron on October 6, 2005 03:20 PM

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