Think about the reality of enforcing WOM ethics

WOMMA applauds the FTC decision to not take an official regulatory position on word-of-mouth marketing.  Complainant Commercial Alert concedes defeat and calls it a "giant Christmas present."  The FTC will evaluate situations on a case-by-case basis to determine if law enforcement action is necessary.

BzzAgent has 450,000 agents.  Tremor has 230,000 teens.  Vocalpoint has 450,000 moms.  That’s 1,000,000+ potential WOM nodes out there.  If one in a million agents don’t disclose their affiliation when buzzing, who’s at fault (i.e. who gets sued)?  The agent, network, media agency, and/or sponsoring firm?

More importantly, who files the complaints?  The burden of action falls to consumers – and a backlash against WOM doesn’t seem imminent.  One solution?  A network of "anti-WOM" agents that would actively question when buzzed and take action to report disclosure or lack thereof.  But there’s no money in this direction to fund such an effort and I’d bet that the demographics of those who’d voluntarily support such a cause diverge wildly from existing agent networks.

Otherwise, without Bones- or House-type forensics, enforcement will be nearly impossible outside of a closed-loop system, e.g. online.  You can track spam, flogs, and phishing – but not person-to-person non-disclosure.