Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Web 2.0: A Minefield Marketers Must Cross

Web 2.0: A Minefield Marketers Must Cross

by Karl Greenberg, Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007 6:00 AM ET


EXECUTIVES, ATTORNEYS AND CEOS AGREE that so-called Web 2.0 is a
minefield for companies--but a minefield companies must cross whether
they want to or not.

What panelists at the National Advertising Review Council's NAD Annual
Conference argued--in one form or another--is that although the Web is
protean, the law isn't. And that if one follows the letter of the law,
which might be called "truth in blogging," there's a decent chance one
will also avoid blowing up one's brand.

Mark Serrianne, CEO of brand consultancy Northlich, was one of four
speakers at the NAD annual conference Tuesday, as part of Advertising
Week in New York. He said the broader issue was the lack of companies'
ability to control information, and the temptation companies have to try

He set the stage with a couple of personal anecdotes: first, the day he
walked into his office and found that his secretary--with whom he shared
an interest in politics--had learned, online, not only that he'd given
money to a certain candidate, but how much, to the dollar, through a
link on Huffington Post.

The other enlightening moment was at a local gas station, where he saw
several teens talking--not to each other, but into different digital
devices. "I don't want to belabor the obvious, but we have been talking
about the news media, because we have to navigate regulation and
self-regulation with that backdrop," he said, recalling how easy it was
to be a PR guy for the Army in Saigon during the Vietnam War, at least
as far as controlling certain elements of the news.

"Fast forward: now we have real-time feedback and absolutely no room for
error. Consider the current demonstrations in Burma," he said. "The
media was banned from covering the event, but it was all over the TV,
because of people taking photos and videos and putting them on the Web.

"Today, the appetite is never-ending. The appetite for programming is
huge. And the news is being shaped in real-time. Not just delivered, but
shaped. So in that environment, think recalls, Vioxx, product tampering.
Think about the challenging situation toy manufacturing must have now
getting ready for Christmas.

"We live in a constant state of catch-up. Newsrooms are called
information centers, and viewers and readers are experts; journalists
have their own blogs; they want information to come back. And," he went
on, "the term 'credibility' has changed. Trustworthiness is now the
inclusion of multiple viewpoints."

Thus, he added, the advent of terms like "crowd sourcing" and of groups
like the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. "We have an emergence of
all sorts of new, non-paid activities that we, as regulators, must
understand--like street theatre, buzz marketing, and influencer

Karl Greenberg can be reached at

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