1. Flubs, Gaffes, and Blunders

Ted, Where’s the Disclosure?

Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Ted Murphy and his work, and I even appeared on MindComet’s podcast series, Internet Marketing Voodoo.
I’m wary, however, of PayPerPost.com, a program he’s launching that pays bloggers $5 or $10 (or whatever the advertiser wants) to blog about various products and links. According to an article in BusinessWeek, the blogger’s disclosure isn’t required. Find the full story on Jeremiah Owyang’s blog (he sent me the link; he gets the clicks).
I have some experience with this. Some time ago, I went undercover with BzzAgent, the word of mouth marketing company. I signed up to get free products to rave about, didn’t actually rave about them, wrote creative reviews, and got points to redeem for free products. This isn’t a recommend course of action, and I donated any products received from it, though it did give me a taste of how it’s easy to scam both consumers and advertisers; all of it should be considered unethical.
If you want more info on the debate and will be in Boston July 12, RSVP to the blogger dinner @ Fire & Ice, where Ted, Jeremiah, and I will be among those attending.

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Comments to: Ted, Where’s the Disclosure?
  • Avatar
    July 4, 2006

    Hi David,
    Thank you for calling out PayPerPost; it’s a total unethical scam. I commented on it myself here: http://attentionmax.com/blog/2006/07/payperpost_pays_bloggers_to_be.html.
    However, I think it’s wrong for you to cast “all” experiential, buzz or product-trial programs as unethical. What’s unethical is when disclosure is optional — either on the part of the marketer, agency or consumer.
    BzzAgent used to swim in a gray pool here, but in the past year has instituted an extremely strict policy of disclosure — on the part of the marketer, itself, and the consumers who participate.
    No matter where you lie in the value chain, you bring your own ethics to the table, but the mere practice of product demo-ing, with a request to talk about good or bad experiences is not inherintly wrong. In fact, it’s called freedom of speech, and freedom to persuade (which is what advertising and politicing is all about). In fact, what’s the difference between professional agents (like PR or ad firms) and consumer agents? I bet the grayness will move into marketing the way it is in news media.
    Finally, there is a bonus to a strong policy of disclosure: a number of industry and academic researchers have found that disclosure of an agent relationship actually increases credibility and persuasiveness. Talk to Dr. Walter Carl at Northeastern University, who has done a number of studies within BzzAgent’s databse.

  • Avatar
    July 5, 2006

    Max, you’re right – I rattled off this post too quickly and didn’t quite make it to the intended conclusion.
    I by no means think all WOM marketing or buzz marketing is unethical, though disclosure’s a must. Without trust, the whole system falls apart.


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