Self Regulation & Enlightened Self Interest

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fat_small.jpgADOTAS — Internet marketing, and more specifically affiliate marketing, is one of the most exciting industries to be a part of these days. With the economy as a whole, in what seems to be a downward spiral, most companies in our industry are still experiencing growth, some record growth.

The reason our industry is thriving is because every person involved in the industry has their eyes on the next big prize. Barriers to entry are still low and a publisher working out of his home office can compete in an auction for placement against a major corporation and win. We are all constantly looking for the next big product or promotion method and because of this the envelope is being pushed on a daily basis.

A special and important level of responsibility has now been placed on affiliates to ensure that the consumer is not misled and is constantly and consistently protected. This type of self regulation is what protects not only the consumer but also the publishers and advertisers, resulting in a successful future for all parties.

We have seen this before with the creation of the CANSPAM Act of 2003, as well as the major ad networks moved away from incentivized traffic. For those who do not recall or are not familiar, the CANSPAM Act drew a line in the sand between publishers marketing the right way and those employing unscrupulous methods.

Today, and for the past months, the industry buzzed with rumors about the FTC, fake blog and review sites and the advertisers they connect to. It is time to draw the line again – this time between publishers who are running legitimate blog and review sites and those operating misleading fake blog and review sites.

For example, while many publishers will point to advertisers as the problematic piece of the equation, many publishers are promising things the product simply cannot deliver (Lose 45 lbs in 2 weeks! ). Then, another publisher comes along promising the consumer they can lose 50 lbs in 2 weeks. The consumer orders the product and only loses 15 lbs in two weeks (still a great achievement) but they were told they would lose 50 lbs and are now unsatisfied with their purchase.

To create a long term and scalable business model, it is important that all parties involved refrain from misleading the consumer in any way. We all need to work to distinguish between compliant marketing practices and misleading techniques, as this is the only way to ensure the longevity and growth of the industry. We are proposing the best combination of consumer protection and enlightened self interest: protect the consumer, thereby protect yourself as a publisher.

Clickbooth was the first to post a set of guidelines and regulations for blog and review sites (available here), and other networks have begun to follow suit. For the greater good of the industry we all need to come together and set the tone for responsible and sustainable marketing.

1 COMMENT

  1. For the past month or so, I have been busy writing about the grant kit scam phenomenon. I created a separate blog for it.

    In a recent post ‘An Open Letter to the US Affiliate Marketing Community’ I asked why affiliate marketers feel it is right to promote these grant kits, and questioned the methods they use.

    Your article addresses some of these same issues.

    However, I would like to draw the line even further. In my opinion, it is not just the publishers that are at fault; affiliate networks that include grant kit providers in their program are just as much responsible and deserve the scrutiny of the FTC.

    I do not know if Clickbooth represents grant kit merchants in its network, but if you do, you should simply kick them out.

    These programs themselves are based on false promises and misleading information. On top of that, they purposefully make it difficult to find the true terms of the services purchased through the use of hard-core negative option marketing, and for unsuspecting consumers this leads to unexpected credit card charges of sometimes hundreds of dollars. What makes it extra sour is that for many of those that think they can obtain a government grant money is a necessity; they’re unemployed, work at low-end jobs, lost their home, etc.

    If I were running an affiliate network, I would not want to represent any of these companies, and I do not see why any of them do.

    Also, oftentimes the marketing materials publishers use are provided by the merchants, and merchants do not seem to review publisher sites on a regular basis. Or maybe they do and just do not care as long as the cash keeps flowing in.

    There undoubtedly are other programs I could mention (like Acai weight loss and such) but for now I am focused on the whole grant scam thing.

    It needs to disappear.

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