Through an online ad campaign running on family- and marketing-oriented sites, the non-profit National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) has mounted an attack on the involvement of minors in word-of-mouth campaigns.
Specifically, the NIMF has set its sights on pushing for modifications in the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's (WOMMA) recently released proposed code of ethics. The NIMF has made a name for itself in the past by issuing a "report card" on video games urging parents to closely monitor the games their kids play.
The online ads against what NIMF calls "buzzploitation" have been running on family-oriented sites like child.com and Parents.com. They've also appeared on marketing-related sites like ClickZ, Adweek.com, AdAge.com and MediaPost. The ads all link to a blog the group has started at buzzploitation.blogspot.com, which so far has only two entries explaining the organization's position.
The online ads' copy reads: "Is your company helping to protect kids from multi-level marketing schemes? Click here to learn about the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's code of conduct. The truth about Buzzploitation."
The advocacy group also took out a full-page ad in the print version of Advertising Age. That ad took the form of an open letter to marketing professionals, which NIMF also copied to executives at agencies including Young & Rubicam, Fleishman-Hillard, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Edelman Public Relations, Burson-Marsteller, Foote Cone & Belding Worldwide, BBDO Worldwide and Wieden + Kennedy.
NIMF is hoping the ads spur parents and marketing companies to submit feedback to WOMMA's proposed ethical guidelines.
"We 're just trying to make sure the public comment includes parents and people who respect our work," said Blois Olson, a spokesperson for NIMF.
The NIMF is pushing for parental notification in viral and buzz marketing campaigns that involve teenagers. It's trying to get individual companies and agencies to adopt notification rules, while simultaneously pushing WOMMA to change its ethics guidelines to require parental notification.
"It's fine as long as parents know that that's what their kids are doing and that their kids are being marketed to," said Olson.
As for WOMMA, CEO Andy Sernovitz declined to comment other than to say the group's ethics guidelines speak for themselves.
Though WOMMA has promised to post comments on its ethical guidelines, so far the section of the group's Web site dedicated to those comments hasn't been updated. The one-month comment period, after which WOMMA will decide upon and adopt a final code, is set to end Wednesday.
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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