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Internet Marketing Ethics – Is this Ethical?

How do you define an internet marketing campaign to be ethical? Have you ever thought about it? What standards do you adhere to? How do we hold our peers accountable?

These are some of the questions I asked myself this week after receiving an email from an internet marketing company. The email itself wasn’t offensive. It was what happened after I clicked on the email. Actually, it was what happened after I signed up for the FREE seminar that made my blood curdle.

The first email of the campaign was short, simple and enticing…


Want a chance to win $30,000??

We’ve given away iPads, trips to Costa Rica, and all sorts of stuff.

Yes, I’m a bit CRAZY, but I guess you can say I’m in love with marketing.

To find out how you can win $30,000:


Of course, I’d love to win $30,000, who wouldn’t? So I click. The sales letter page then promises me the following:

three of the top marketing powerhouses from the Infusionsoft community (Ultimate Marketer: Bob Britton, SEO Expert: Grant James, and Internet Guru: Micah Mitchell) have now joined forces and developed the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing a business owner needs to triple their sales and profits in 12 months or less,

The landing page goes on to claim:

“We have decided to host a special “FREE Sneak Peak, Live Event“  for the first 100 people to register.”

“you can attend WITHOUT shelling out your hard earned cash for a plane ticket, a hotel room or ANYTHING else,”

YES! I Want To Be One Of Only 100 People To Attend This FREE Live Sneak Peek Event Into How Your Guys Systems Can Stuff An EXTRA $100,000+ Dollars This Year Into My Wallet! YES! I Also Want To Learn How I Can Win The $30,000 Cash”

Notice the use of the word free everywhere.

There was also a line that said this:

“having a one in 50 chance of winning $30,000”

If they are accepting 100 registrations, how do your odds become 1 in 50? There are no contest terms listed. No legalese at all anywhere.

Here’s the worst part…

Once you type in your name and email, they send you to a new page that says this…

“Your registration request for the “Infusion Elite Mastermind Sneak Peek Live Event” has been received, but before I can register you I first need you to pay a seat deposit of $97.”

“IMPORTANT!!: If you DO NOT pay the seat deposit, you WILL NOT receive a link for this event and you’re spot WILL NOT be reserved.”

And there is a video of the Infusionsoft Ultimate Marketing Award Winner (he makes this claim in the video) telling everyone why they need to pay $97 and they only get it back if they actually attend the event.

So they entice people with a $30,000 prize. They offer no terms and conditions regarding the contest rules. They play upon their relationship with Infusionsoft and their authority as the Ultimate Marketer of the Year. They tell you its free to join. Then after you sign up they say that you can’t complete the registration until you pay them $97.

I found this to be the type of campaign that gives internet marketers a slimy reputation. I found it to be borderline ethical and legal (deceptive advertising).

I now ask you, my readers,

What would you do?

Do you find this to be ethical?

Is this the type of role model we should be emulating?

Here’s a link if you want to check it out. PLEASE DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR MONEY!

FTC Internet Advertising Guidelines for Bloggers, Internet & Affiliate Marketers

Testimonial Advertisements & Celebrity Endorsements

The Federal Trade Commission has finally issued an update to their guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials as used on the internet and social media. The last update was in 1980, well before the influence of websites, blogs and social media.

If you are a blogger, affiliate marketer or internet marketer, you need to be aware of how these revisions affect you and your business. You may want discuss these changes with your attorney and make adjustments to your web site, blog or social media campaigns.

The full text of the press release is available here.

The full text of the Act is available here.

In summary, the clarifications to the FTC Act are:

1) Advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.

2) “Material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. So, Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

3) Celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

It’s a good idea to ensure your web site, blog and social media strategy are following these new guidelines for the use of testimonial advertising and endorsements.

Balloon Boy – Publicity or Prison?

The Balloon Boy incident that occurred here in Colorado over the last week got me thinking about publicity, what it is, what it isn’t and where did Mr. Heene (the boy’s father) go wrong.

If we define publicity as” one’s deliberate attempt to create or manage the perception the public has of them“, then why was the Heene father so wrong?

First, let’s look at what he did right

  1. He initially created a lot of excitement, noise and buzz as well as concern and fear for the safety of his child.
  2. He created intrigue and mystery over the oddity of the homemade balloon.
  3. He created a controversy over the whereabouts of his son during the ordeal and the family’s intentions behind it.  Where was the balloon boy and why didn’t he answer when called?
  4. He created a debate which led to polls, public opinion, speculation, anger outrage, etc.

So where did he go wrong? If the saying is “any press is good press“, then why do we want to see him sent to prison? Why is he not forgiven for his pathetic behavior like we forgave Paris Hilton for hers (or insert the name of your favorite celebrity here)?

This is where he went wrong

  1. He did not already endear himself to the American people. For most of us, this is our first time hearing of him. We do not have an existing relationship with him.
  2. He used an innocent child. While Paris endangered the safety of others when she got drunk and got behind the wheel of a car, she did not use a child to get drunk nor require a child to drive her.
  3. He cost us all money before the legal battle. He made a false 911 claim, utilizing resources that we pay taxes to support. He used the military and FAA resources, which also cost us as tax payers money. OK, so Paris only cost us money once she got busted.
  4. He diverted life-saving resources away from others and risked the lives of those service people.
  5. He lied to us. Americans hate liars.

Where does that leave us? Well, I’d say the next time you plan to create some publicity for your business, try to include excitement, noise, buzz, intrigue, mystery, controversy and a little debate. Endear yourself or business to your customer. Be responsible and accept responsibility appropriately. Find win-win compensation for those involved. And, whatever you do, remember, “Honesty is the Best Policy!”

Is there anything you would add to this?

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