A Report of the Working Group on Internet Advertising
The Coalition for Networked Information
September 28, 1994
Cher does not yet recommend her health club on the Internet, but many others tell of their experiences with products and services — both positive and negative. As one participant on a list said:
There are a number of books and articles around which describe this kind of marketing approach. The most accessible one I've found is "The One to One Future" by Peppers and Rogers. (Sorry for that blatantly commercial message. Here's the standard disclaimer: I have nothing whatsoever to gain from the sale of the book. :-). [From: brian@eit.COM (Brian Smithson) Date: Thu, 28 Oct 93 00:22:21 -0400]
Endorsements might be exempted from the “advertising” category, because they often come in the context of a question answered (“Does anyone know where I can get…”) or an experience shared (“My service provider offers…”). Even when the endorsement comes from someone who works for the company, the promotion is accepted when it is not blatantly commercial and is a reasonable answer to a question posed by someone else.
The technique is so effective that at least one company now offers the service to anyone. One participant in the CNI discussion forwarded this post from a music-discussion list:
Got a nice little internet scam letter from a company called "X communication" that said "for a monthly retainer of only $500, we'll post unlimited messages pertaining up to 4 different artists on up to a dozen pertinent internet bulletin boards. For a small additional charge, we'll even tackle Compuserve, Prodigy and America On-line.
A variation of endorsements are the response troops, company employees charged with cruising the net looking on mailing lists and news groups for mention of the company’s products or services. They follow (and sometimes join) the discussion to insure that questions are answered fully and accurately. Typically they do not initiate discussion about their products, and when answering questions they identify themselves as roving ambassadors of good will and information. In most cases, they are well accepted by netters because they offer solid information in answer to publicly posedquestions.
Endorsements are among the most effective advertisements on the Internet because they are offered publicly in an interactive medium. Anyone who disagrees can post her own opinions, and such debates often form the best — and most unbiased — analyses of products and services. Advertisers whose products and services are lauded gain customers and loyalty. And when an advertiser participates in the debate, the power of the Internet is manifest. Advertisers whose products are panned can learn first hand about customers’ problems — and in solving them show their responsiveness and customer support.