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October 20, 2005

Perception is everything in advertising and apparently word of mouth

I’ve been having some email conversations about the commercial alert letter to the FTC, P & G and my blog post yesterday. While I don’t agree with Gary Ruskin’s letter in relation to P & G, bearing further evidence. I am glad Commercial Alert raised the issue.

Zach Rodgers gave me his permission to print his personal comments about his personal thoughts about the incident, ?My feeling is a lot of these practices are insidious without being illegal.? Although Zach writes for these are his personal comments.

Also, see Matt Galloway’s post and Matthew Hurst’s comments on his blog ‘The Basement’.

I think Zach is one of many people who feel that the practice of marketing to young people or people in general (maybe?) in this way is seen as being insidious. I might suggest that is probably why Commercial Alert targeted P & G either they felt it was insidious or they thought everyone else would too. I don't know if the practice is illegal or not, though I have tried this morning to get more information out of the FTC (very difficult). I think the fact that P & G's Tremor service targeted young people makes everyone slightly nervous about the activity. But nervousness does not make something illegal, but it might damage a company's reputation.

Perception is everything in advertising and apparently word of mouth.

However, maybe this perspective will change your opinion:

I was thinking the P & G example is a little bit like going to a supermarket where someone asks you to test a product, say a dip or a new type of microwave sandwich. If I ate the product, liked it, bought it and went home and told all my friends. Commercial alert is suggesting the company would ask me to inform everyone I spoke with about the new product that I received a free product at the supermarket. Somehow I don't think that type of product testing and promotion is against the FTC rules. What do you think?

Posted by johncass at October 20, 2005 4:49 PM

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I think your example is dead on. Dave Balter of BzzAgent will tell you from experience the disclosing the fact that you got a "free sample" will have little or no effect on the influence of the endorsement. It's all about the level of trust between the two folks.

In the bigger picture - who cares. These "WOM advocates" are not in it for the free products and they don't get rewarded for passing on a good word and the company can't stop them from spreading negative buzz. At the end of the day, if the product isn't any good, no recommendations or worse - negative recommendations will happen. Instead of markeing to kids by paying Paris Hilton to strip naked and perform sex acts on a cheese burger, marketers are spending money on giving volunteers access to limited free product so that they can tell others if they like using it.

Why is this a bad thing?

Posted by: Matt Galloway at October 20, 2005 5:55 PM

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