Just when you thought you had heard it all, there is more. Not long ago all the buzz was about the FTC, Mommy Bloggers, and disclosure. The fear, or lack of it, revolved around misinformation basically. That buzz faded as happens so many times. Some lawyers were consulted, disclosures drafted, and basically the money keeps flowing for advertisement to and from the world’s most prolific consumer group – the American Mom.
Not long ago we got into an ideological uproar with some high profile Moms who blog. As sometimes happens, there was a good deal of misunderstanding, especially about our intentions and criticisms. Like most of the Mom bloggers out there, we just wanted things to be done right (not that we are the end all gurus of right), we got tired of watching innocent Mommy Bloggers being sucked into a virtual money pit which was and is demeaning to them and everyone else. Fast forward to today – now the government, big business, and even academia is condoning what amounts to a targeted digital spam campaign. At least there is the potential for this.
When Moms Become More Than Targets
A press release about a new texting service for expectant Moms hit the digital world on February 4th. AT&T, and a nest full of other organizations jumped into Mom’s world with both feet. A new service called text4baby is the catalyst for what on the surface looks like a wonderful idea – expectant moms getting valuable data on pregnancy vie the service – 3 times a week! Expectant Moms can apparently look forward to such vital info as making their next doctor’s appointment, cool news about vitamins and stuff, and maybe even Johnson & Johnson’s latest baby products! All conveniently brought to American moms (English or Spanish) via the following companies, agencies, and even Moms. The names and links, followed by the pertinent dogma are interesting.
- Voxiva – o reach and engage the broadest possible audience. They leverage our flexible platform, global service delivery infrastructure and our 9 years of mobile expertise to deliver the most effective solutions possible.
- CTIA The Wireless Foundation – educating and demonstrating the benefits and applications of wireless telecommunications. (now that sounds like a non-profit with no industry connections)
- GHG Grey Healthcare Group – We create multichannel programs based on medical and strategic insights that integrate the best consumer and professional advertising, branding, medical education, search optimization, and managed care strategies in the industry. (Whew boy, altruists to the core)
- Johnson & Johnson Founding Sponsor – Well, Johnson & Johnson has always cared about your doctor appointments – need we say more?
- Wellpoint Premier Sponsor – “One of every nine Americans is a member of a WellPoint affiliated health plan.” (and they are shooting for one in five)
- Pfizer Premier Sponsor – The most profitable pharmaceutical company in the world. (No comment)
- CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield Premier Sponsor – Health insurance a plenty.
- White House Office of Science and Technology Policy – our government seal on pharmaceutical ads?
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Helping the underprivileged get cell phone service?
- U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System – ?
- MTV Media Partner Media Parnter – engaging the next generation of Mom consumers – teen moms believe it or not.
- BabyCenter Implementing Partner – The Mommy Blog connection?
- Syniverse Implementing Partner – Mobile solutions technologies.
- Danya International Implementing Partner – “Danya’s creative multimedia health products combine science-based information, current technology, and a thorough understanding of our clients’ target audiences.” (their corporate products are so nebulous you will have to call to find out what they offer)
As you can see the list of and broad reach of the partners for this cell phone campaign is extraordinary. Other so called “Implementation Partners” include George Washington University (academia) and Keynote (performance metrics). The list of Telecom Partners includes just about everyone obviously. A big outreach huh?
While the FTC was supposedly arming itself to deal with those mean old Mommy Bloggers posting sponsored or paid reviews, evidently the people behind those people were arming for a better “broadcast mousetrap”, one which leaned more toward the big corporate players perhaps? I say perhaps because of course one cannot prove any collusion or misdeeds, it is all speculative. Let’s speculate some more.
The problem in all this for me is two fold. First, the Federal Government, nor any of its agencies, should not be listed on a product which so obviously is designed to sell stuff, gather metrics, and particularly one targeting low income people. Tell me I am wrong here. Secondly, the terms of service for text4baby clearly open the door for not only privacy issues with regard to their service, but the overall “value” proposition for the service – affording expectant moms with tips, while opening the door for Johnson & Johnson and others? Free government condoned and supported advertising?
All this may be an over reaction on my part. Maybe all these huge corporations, caring government agencies, cell phone providers, and whoever else dreamed this up are just concerned about your unborn baby. Maybe. The target market is teen and underprivileged mothers pretty clearly. To be honest, I never saw anything quite like this. I hope you will all come and explain how this is okay to me, I just don’t see it.