Brian Solis checked in with a guest post on TechCrunch this morning regarding the disclosure debate.
To be clear, it’s a thoughtful post and I don’t disagree with anything materially in what was said. So why write about this? I find the entire conversation to be 100% completely unnecessary.
First a story. When I was a teenager, I saw in ad in the back of a magazine, it stated to send $1 and a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to receive information on a tried and proven money making business strategy. It sounded good so I sent it in. A few weeks later I got a my envelope in the mail. It contained a small note that contained a message like this:
A proven way to make money:
- Open a post office box
- Place a small ad in the back of a magazine asking for $1 and a SASE to “learn a proven way to make money”
- Put your $1 bills in the bank and send notes like this one
Yes, I was scammed. But being scammed was an important event in making me a more careful and better consumer. I learned. It was necessary for me to grow. Did the magazine know the ad was a scam? Probably. Did that stop them from publishing it? No. Consumers need to judge each situation for themselves based on the data available and make the best decision.
So Dave why is this potential FTC regulation unnecessary (and possibly quite harmful)?
- The content revolution is not well enough defined to regulate it – It’s changing all of the time, if businesses and individuals still have trouble understanding it’s implications on our society. How can a group of elder statespeople in our government know what is right? Simple answer. They can’t. As traditional media loses relevancy/power content will increasingly be created by the masses. It’s a simple fact. Get used to it, in the long run, it may actually lead to the removal of the abuse of monopoly power.
- Traditional advertising is not generally marked in the manner the FTC is suggesting – When you watch TV, ADVERTISING is not in giant letters on the commercial during the program is it? No. It’s not on outdoor billboards. It’s not in newspapers, magazines or the majority of web site banner ads. Why? Because it’s obvious to those who look closely. Creating a double standard here is just plain silly and it’s insulting to people’s intelligence.
- Previous FTC measures have proven to be massive failures – The FTC instituted the Do Not Call List Registry and the CAN-SPAM Act several years ago. Yet I get numerous unsolicited commercial calls to numbers I’ve registered on the list. I get tons of spam from email lists that I have NEVER signed up for on a daily basis. Regulation without enforcement results in selective usage of the law. This is not good and can be abused on both sides. The FTC has a proven history of failure and should go fix it’s previous messes before creating unnecessary new ones.
- Social media platforms should do everything possible to prevent fraudulent usages – I see tons of fraudulent Twitter users emerging daily. Twitter should be creating validation of each and every user which would lead to an immediate reduction in questionable activity. Why aren’t they? Because it would put holes and raise questions about Twitter’s “growth story” and that with no revenue model in sight would lead to lower valuations and less money being pumped into the company. Twitter has a responsibility here and I don’t see it doing everything it can to eliminate questionable activity on the platforms. If the social media platforms acted responsibly – unnecessary legislation could be avoided.
- The traditional advertising industry is apparently using lobby influence dollars to try to maintain it’s declining monopoly power via regulation – Content is taking over the economy as search allows people to find it and social media networks allow it’s distribution. This is similar to how the printing press once revolutionized content distribution. We are living in something like this again now. Yes there will be pain. But regulations in the middle of the content revolution will hinder commerce and slow the process of replacing business models that are no longer highly relevant. Do we legislate against fuel efficient vehicles in favor of gas guzzlers? No, of course we don’t – why create unnecessary legislation that harms new forms of efficiency? yes, this really is this unnecessary.
- “All Marketers Are Liars” – This famous book by Seth Godin indicates that deceptive advertising has always been a part of society and likely always will be. This is NOT new. Don’t we respect people enough to make their own judgments? I do. Why then act like it’s new? It’s not.
Look at the facts of history, the proposed FTC regulations will solve nothing and do nothing besides place a greater burden on commerce in an already struggling economy. We can prevent this grave mistake. Now let’s go do it.