WOMMA Submits Comments on FTC's Proposed Revisions to Advertising Guidelines on Testimonials...

Thu Mar 5, 2009 9:22am EST

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WOMMA Submits Comments on FTC's Proposed Revisions to Advertising Guidelines
on Testimonials and Endorsements

CHICAGO, March 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The Word of Mouth Marketing Association
(WOMMA), www.womma.org,  said today it generally supports revised guidelines
proposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requiring transparency in
endorsements and testimonials used in advertising.  The proposed guidelines
are intended to cover social media as well as measured media and to prevent
misleading product endorsements from bloggers and other third-parties who may
have financial incentives to write favorable reviews.

"Bloggers need to be able to offer their opinions. That's what a lot of their
communities find valuable and we don't want to scare them off from offering
that honest point of view. However, WOMMA strongly supports the FTC's proposed
requirement that endorsers fully disclose their relationships with advertisers
and product companies.  That's how we preserve the integrity of social media
communications," said WOMMA President John Bell. 

WOMMA, in its Comments to the FTC, and in support of the agency's commitment
to meaningful self-regulation, agreed that core elements of the FTC guideline
revisions should require disclosure and transparency, and emphasized that
these principles are essential to establish consumer interest and trust,
respect for industry self-regulation and integrity in the commercial
marketplace.   
 
In the proposed revisions, the FTC warns that advertisers could be subject to
liability for false or unsubstantiated statements in endorsements or for
failing to disclose material connections with their endorsers.  The FTC also
advised that endorsers may be liable for statements made in the course of
their reviews, especially when a connection between the endorser and the
seller of the advertised product could materially influence the weight or
credibility of the endorsement.  Such relationships must be fully and
meaningfully disclosed, the agency said.  

WOMMA Vice President Paul Rand said that WOMMA's Ethics Code,
http://womma.org/ethicscode, is consistent with the intent behind the proposed
revisions to the FTC Advertising Guides, and WOMMA supports the FTC's efforts
in promoting transparency and honesty in advertising and marketing and
industry self-regulation.  "Through such principles, the integrity of
advertising is preserved, and marketing practices that utilize word-of-mouth,
consumer-generated, and social media platforms can be perceived as credible
and viable," he said.

However, examples provided in the FTC revisions, according to WOMMA, are too
broad in scope in proposing that both advertisers and bloggers themselves can
be liable when promoting their products and services.  WOMMA, therefore, asked
the FTC to consider clarifications to identify those circumstances and
contexts where liability cannot be triggered.

For example, could a blogger be subject to liability for endorsements even if
they represent an honest appraisal of the product and the blogger's
experience?  "Bloggers might be afraid to state their opinions or experiences
if they believe they go against the grain of mainstream opinion or are not
supported by empirical evidence.  However, WOMMA strongly supports the FTC's
proposed requirement that endorsers fully disclose their relationships with
advertisers and product companies to preserve the integrity of social media
communications," said Bell. 

WOMMA, www.womma.com, is the leading trade association in the marketing and
advertising industries that focuses on word of mouth, consumer-generated and
social media platforms -- or marketing techniques that include buzz, viral,
community, and influencer marketing as well as brand blogging.  The
organization is committed to developing and maintaining appropriate ethical
standards for marketers and advertisers engaging in such marketing practices,
identifying meaningful measurement standards for such marketing practices, and
defining "best practices" for the industry.  

Founded in 2005, WOMMA currently has approximately 400 members.  They include
marketers and brands that use word-of-mouth marketing to reinforce their core
customers and to reach out to new consumers, agencies that deliver
word-of-mouth services and technologies, researchers that track the
word-of-mouth experience and offline and online practitioners.




SOURCE  Word of Mouth Marketing Association

Chuck Weber, +1-847-705-1802, cpweber@weberpr.com, for Word of Mouth Marketing
Association
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