New U.K. Legislation Mirrors Word of Mouth Marketing Association's Ethics Code Policy on Transparency
Chicago, IL April 17, 2008
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) announced its support of the principles of new U.K. legislation that makes nondisclosure in word of mouth marketing efforts a criminal offense, and urged U.S. word of mouth marketers to diligently maintain high ethical standards to continue to pre-empt the need for similar U.S. legislation.
This announcement is in response to an Apr. 2, 2008, warning issued by the British Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) detailing the new U.K. law, which implicitly states that any commercial message should be immediately identified as such and that "falsely representing oneself as a consumer" is illegal. The offenses defined by the new U.K. legislation are flagged as unethical word of mouth marketing practices in WOMMA's Ethics Code -- a Code that WOMMA established in 2005 to help guide ethical conduct by marketers who engage in word of mouth marketing.
The new law addresses a key component of WOMMA's Ethics Code: transparency. One of the core principles of WOMMA's Ethics Code is the "Honesty ROI" (Honesty of Relationship, Honesty of Opinion, and Honesty of Identity), which requires full disclosure and total transparency in any and all word of mouth marketing efforts. This emphasis on transparency in word of mouth marketing underscores one of WOMMA's key values: to preserve the integrity of the word of mouth marketing industry by promoting non-deceptive marketing practices.
"One of the major pillars of WOMMA since our inception has been to help our members embrace ethical practices when it comes to the fast growing discipline of word of mouth marketing, and to establish a set of standards with which the industry could regulate itself," said Ed Keller, WOMMA Board President and CEO of The Keller Fay Group. "A large part of WOMMA's Ethics Code is dedicated to the principle of transparency in WOM. The message to marketers is clear: When in doubt, disclose."
In the U.S. WOMMA is leading the word of mouth marketing industry's efforts to set ethical WOM marketing standards. WOMMA's Ethics Code was published in draft form on Feb. 9, 2005. In 2007, WOMMA launched its Practical Ethics Toolkit, which is intended to help marketers evaluate their word of mouth marketing practices, adhere to the ethical principles established by the WOMMA Ethics Code, establish policies of ethical conduct within their organizations, and educate their staff on WOM ethics.
"Unethical WOM practices tarnish consumer trust and muddy the word of mouth marketing waters for everyone involved," said Paul Rand, Vice President of WOMMA's Board and President and CEO of Zocalo Group. "Keeping word of mouth marketing ethical protects both consumers and WOM marketers and ensures that consumers can still trust the most valuable influence on their purchase decision: the honest recommendation of someone they trust."
To learn more about WOMMA's Ethics Code and the Practical Ethics Toolkit, visit: http://www.womma.org/ethics/ (http://www.womma.org/ethics/).
WOMMA is the official trade association for the word of mouth marketing industry. Our more than 400 corporate members are committed to building a prosperous word of mouth marketing profession based on best practices, measurable ROI, and ethical leadership. Learn more about us at www.womma.org.
Shannon Stairhime, Editorial & Content Manager
Word of Mouth Marketing Association
(editor @ womma.org)