Posted by Amanda Chapel
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
This just in from a reliable source... the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is changing its name. We’ve just learned that the group is considering a new name in order to distance itself from the taint of “behavioral manipulation” and the looming potential of government oversight.
By way of background, on November 1-2 the FTC will be holding hearings on Behavioral Marketing. The purpose of the investigation is to address the consumer protection issues raised by the practice of tracking consumers’ behavior for the purposes of marketplace manipulation.
In a statement released late Tuesday, WOMMA Interim CEO Pete Waldheim was emphatic that his organization does "zero work with behavioral manipulation." However, he later contradicted himself admitting that the issues the FTC is focusing on “are germane to some forms of online marketing” and conceded that these “are related to certain practices in the word-of-mouth marketing industry.”
"Our work with the online world focuses on such issues as involving people in communities, making tools available to help them spread the word, and soliciting and eliciting responses and opinions from consumers about their experiences with products and services. It is not on how to track consumers, or how to surveil individuals’ behavior over time. [Though] we do urge companies to listen and communicate with their consumers who post, for instance, to ratings or review sites, responding to concerns where appropriate."
On the condition of anonymity, one insider said: "Well, unless they change their name and forego a huge chunk of member dues from companies like Edelman... they're dead meat. The public is far more sensitive to manipulation than it's ever been. If the FTC doesn't start looking into their members' practices now, they will soon."
New names currently under consideration include: the Chit-Chat Club; Shel Holtz' Coffee Klatch; The Group Formerly Know as WOMMA; the Happy Talk Facilitators Union (HT-FU); and the Unemployed Marketing Executives Association (UMEA).