The WOMMA Code of Ethics is a cornerstone of the principles that built this organization.
As part of its ethics evaluation process, WOMMA established the Living Ethics Review as the method by which we update the WOMMA Code of Ethics. Furthermore, WOMMA formalized an interim review process so that we can adopt necessary code changes quickly but with thoughtful consideration and care for the impact on our industry and our membership.
We strive to provide sound, trusted leadership and wish to hold our members to high legal and ethical standards, which are integral to maintaining a quality reputation for both WOMMA and our members.
WOMMA Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct
Updated September 15, 2016
Word of mouth marketing is marketing designed to increase affinity and recommendations by engaging or inspiring people to talk about brands, including in social media. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association ("WOMMA") is a non-profit trade association that provides guidance to and represents the interests of the word of mouth marketing industry. WOMMA is committed to building a prosperous industry that is based upon ethical best practices, effective standards, responsible leadership, and a deep respect for the communities in which its members engage. A central mission of WOMMA is to foster an environment of trust between consumers and marketers; as such, members of WOMMA should be committed to compliance with laws and regulations that govern the prevention of unfair, deceptive or misleading marketing practices.
Therefore, members of WOMMA should strive to:
- Maintain the highest standards of business conduct, by using only legal and ethical practices in their business activity;
- Observe all applicable laws, regulations, and rules pertaining to their marketing practices;
- Actively promote and encourage the highest level of integrity within the industry;
- Cooperate with other members and work with them in the advancement of the industry;
- Lead by example and adhere to ethical standards that may exceed those required by law; and
- Commit to the ongoing development and use of standards and practices in advertising that promote consumer protection.
As a result, members of WOMMA share in the following core values:
Trust. WOMMA members are committed to engaging in practices and policies that promote an environment of trust and transparency between the audience and the marketer.
Integrity. WOMMA members pledge to comply with the requirements of applicable laws, regulations, and rules concerning the prevention of unfair, deceptive or misleading advertising and marketing practices. In particular, WOMMA members promote honesty and transparency in their practices and methods. Indeed, advertising is a creative enterprise that strives to convince the audience that the advertiser's product or service is necessary and valuable, but in the course of inspiring people to talk about brands, WOMMA members are committed to avoiding audience deception as an end result of their marketing practices. WOMMA members shall engage in practices that are designed to enable the reasonable audience acting rationally to make better informed decisions.
Respect. WOMMA members promote and abide by practices that focus on audience welfare. WOMMA members believe that the industry is best served by recognizing that the audience, not the marketer, is fundamentally in charge and in control, and that it is the audience that defines the terms of the audience-marketer relationship.
Honesty. WOMMA members believe that audiences should be free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. While efforts are designed to inspire people to talk and share, WOMMA members do not support any efforts that tell others what to say or how to say it.
Responsibility. WOMMA members believe that marketing efforts geared toward minors require sensitivity and care, given their particular vulnerability to manipulation and deception.
Privacy. WOMMA members respect the privacy of their audience, and WOMMA encourages practices that promote the most effective means to promote privacy, such as opt-in and permission standards.
Conditions for Membership in WOMMA
To qualify for and maintain membership in WOMMA, the applicant or Member shall:
- Share in the core values as set forth in the Code of Ethics and strictly abide by the “Standards of Conduct Required of WOMMA Members”;
- Supply accurate and complete information on the nature of the applicant or Member's business and background, including information concerning the company's principals and management personnel;
- Not have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or fraud by a court of competent jurisdiction;
- Cooperate with and abide by WOMMA's self-regulatory efforts, its complaint resolution programs, and its other rules as they may be established from time to time;
- Promptly respond to all complaints forwarded by WOMMA or from any official complaint resolution program, make a good faith and reasonable effort to resolve all such complaints in accordance with generally accepted and proper business practices, and comply with the terms of any findings issued; and
- Meet its financial obligations, including without limitation financial obligations to WOMMA.
Purpose of the Code of Ethics
WOMMA has adopted a Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct as a requirement of membership, with the objective that the Code and Standards reflect an attempt by industry members to “do the right thing” by engaging in responsible self-regulatory efforts concerning their marketing practices. The fulcrum of the Code and Standards is the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. See 16 C.F.R. §§ 255.0– 255.5.
WOMMA, however, is not an agent or representative of any governmental regulator or law enforcement agency, and its views are not intended to represent any formal or informal interpretations of any laws or regulations.
Standards of Conduct Required of WOMMA Members
Standard 1 – Disclosure of identity: WOMMA members shall require their representatives1 to make meaningful disclosures of their relationships or identities with audiences in relation to the marketing initiatives that could influence an audience member’s purchasing decisions.
Standard 2 – Disclosure of consideration or compensation received: WOMMA members shall require their representatives to disclose meaningfully and prominently all forms (but not monetary amounts) of consideration or compensation they received from the member, marketer or sponsor of the product or service. In other words, WOMMA members shall not engage in marketing practices where the marketer/sponsor or its representative provides goods, services, or compensation to the audience (or communicator) as consideration for recommendations, reviews, or endorsements, unless full, meaningful, and prominent disclosure of such relationship is provided.
Standard 3 – Disclosure of relationship: A WOMMA member shall require its representatives involved in a word of mouth initiative to disclose the material aspects of their commercial relationship with a marketer, including the specific type (but not amount) of any remuneration or consideration received.
Standard 4 – Compliance: A WOMMA member shall comply with the Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission and other applicable regulatory guidelines. See 16 C.F.R. §§ 255.0–255.5.
Standard 5 – Genuine honesty in communication: WOMMA members might provide sample brand-approved language, but shall not tell their representatives what to ultimately state in their communications about a particular product or service, so as to enable the audience to reflect his or her honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences.
Standard 6 – Respect for venue: A WOMMA member shall respect the rights of any online or offline communications venue (such as a web site, blog, discussion forum, traditional media, and live setting) to create and enforce its own rules pertaining to the operation of its platform(s) as it sees fit.
Standard 7 – Marketing to children and adolescents: A WOMMA member shall comply with all applicable laws dealing with minors and marketing in any of its word of mouth marketing programs or campaigns, including the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act ("COPPA"). See 16 C.F.R. § 312.
Standard 8 - Compliance with media-specific rules: A WOMMA member shall comply with existing media-specific rules regarding marketing to children.
Review of the Code of Ethics
The Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct are a reflection of WOMMA members’ commitment to ethical word of mouth marketing practices. The Code is intentionally made to be a “living document” meant to evolve in an effort to keep pace with the current ethical industry norms and the constantly changing marketing, technological and legal/regulatory landscape in which WOMMA members operate.
As a result, WOMMA has adopted the below mechanisms to comment upon the Code and Standards. These processes are intended to be transparent, inclusive and designed to elicit thoughtful input and dialogue.
- Annual Review Period. WOMMA shall send an open solicitation for comments on the Code and Standards to its membership in November each year and conclude the open comment period in February the immediately following year. This process shall also be open to the public (non-members) for comments.
- Annual Meeting of Members. Additionally, comments are welcome to be submitted in writing directly to WOMMA’s President or Executive Director at WOMMA’s annual membership meeting.
- Petition. Any three members in good standing can together, at any time, submit a petition to modify the Code and Standards to WOMMA for consideration.
All comments submitted shall be compiled by WOMMA and made available to the public; if not immediately on WOMMA’s website, then upon request. A thirty-day open comment period will follow any such posting. Upon completion of this final comment period, all compiled comments received will be provided to the Board for final consideration. The Board will then determine whether or not to adopt or reject any such amendments to the Code and Standards. The decision of the Board will be communicated to WOMMA members and be made public promptly thereafter.
Once this decision has been announced, Members will have one hundred and eighty (180) days to ensure compliance with the Code and Standards as amended. Any member unable to comply with the amended Code and Standards will be asked to resign their membership after that time.
Enforcement of the Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct
Any WOMMA member that engages in conduct or an activity, either directly or indirectly, that violates WOMMA’s Code of Ethics or Standards of Conduct may be subject to disciplinary action. WOMMA has designated the Membership Ethics Advisory Panel (“MEAP”) as the body to evaluate charges or complaints of misconduct by members of WOMMA. Procedures for reviewing ethical complaints and conducting disciplinary proceedings will be carried out in accordance with WOMMA’s MEAP Procedures, which can be found on WOMMA’s website.
1 The term "representative" is intended to be construed broadly, so as, for example, to include vendors of marketing initiatives.
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