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Day 1 of PMA's 33rd Annual Marketing Law Conference

By Guest Blogger, Donna DeClemente, Donna's Promo Talk

It's that time of year again for PMA's Annual Marketing and Law Conference which is being held this year at the Marriott Hotel on Michigan Ave in Chicago. I'm happy to be back attending as a guest of PMA. Tuesday was day one of this two-day conference which held up to it's promise to provide the attendees with the things we need to know to comply with the fast changing world of promotion and advertising laws, regulations and government enforcement policies.

PMA Law Conference 2011It was an extremely warm day for mid-November in Chicago which I unfortunately got to experience very little time outside to enjoy it. However, it was well worth it.

The morning kicked off with Bonnie Carlson, President of PMA, reviewing 100 years of Marketing Law. Yes, PMA is celebrating it's 100 anniversary and Bonnie has been a big part of helping to make PMA what it is today. There aren't many marketing related organizations that can say that they've been around for 100 years. Bonnie reviewed some of the organization's history. It first started out as the association for marketers offering premium offers such as Coca-Cola items and Hess trucks, that have become big collectible items. The association has come a long way since then.

Ron Urbach, Partner, Davis & Gilbert, LLP, was our first general session speaker which he has held this spot for many years. Ron always gives a very entertaining and informative presentation and this again lived up to our expectations. His session was titled "Brave New World: Exploring the Rapidly Changing Commercial and Legal Landscape" in which he reviewed with us the basic truths in surviving in today's changing world.

Truth #1 is "Data - the fuel that powers business". Basically data is today's currency for business and the more that businesses learn to use the data effectively, the more successful they will be. Companies need to be more transparent about their data practices and consumers need to be given more simplified choices on how they want their data used.

The other truths Ron disclosed included discussions on how: The 1st amendment is the first defense; We are becoming the wallet-less economy; Regulators need to understand the speed of change; Both consumers and technology shape today's marketplace. To summarize, we need to prepare for more than one future because it's coming all too quickly.

After a morning "refreshment break" we were treated to hearing from both this year's conference co-chair and sweepstakes diva, Linda Goldstein, Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. Linda's fast-paced, extremely informative session titled "What's New in the Game Today - New Twists on Traditional Sweeps, Contests and Promotions" was again the highlight of the conference, especially for my business.

Facebook GuidelinesLinda reviewed with us the basics on sweepstakes and contest promotions with an emphasis this year on the social media and mobile platforms that are popular today. She first reviewed Facebook which included a simple explanation of Facebook's promotional guidelines. The three conditions that you can include is requiring Liking a brand page to participant, asking participants to check into a "Place", and using a 3rd party application to feature the promotion. You can't automatically enter someone into a sweepstakes by liking the page or having them vote by clicking the Like button and you can't notify winners on Facebook.

For Twitter their guidelines state that you should discourage creating multiple accounts and asking participants to post the same tweet repetitively. Also brands should avoid creating sweepstakes that award a participant who re-tweets a post the most times. Linda's advice is to include in your official rules that the tweets must include the sponsor's hashtag and to state that you prohibit use of the hashtag for any other purpose. There were cases sited in which a hashtag was highjacked and used to promote negative comments regarding the brand.

Linda's presentation then went into the mobile space and reviewed both Foursquare location based sweepstakes as well as QR codes as a form of entry. She stated that the debate regarding whether these sweepstakes need an alternate means of entry (AMOE) is now raging. Most say that data and text rates are lower than the cost of postage since most people have unlimited text and data plans. However, best practice is still to offer an AMOE since these charges are still deemed as consideration. Many brands though are doing these without the AMOE since this is considered a low risk without any challenges to date.

I could go on and on to include more details that Linda shared with us, but I also want to highlight a few things discussed in the afternoon social media session that included a panel of speakers representing the advertiser's, agency's and platform's point of view. Susan Cooper from Facebook reviewed why they require a 3rd party application to run sweepstakes and contest promotions. Susan stated that the Facebook platform is a window into the brand's platform and that it's the brand's promotion that Facebook adds sharing features to. Facebook does update it's guidelines based on comments and questions it receives and helps people and developers keep abreast of their updates via their Facebook Site Governance page and directly though advertising account reps.

It's been a full day which included more detail that I can mention here along with some great networking with the opportunity to meet people in the real world (not via social networks). Tomorrow is another day with a session that is based specifically on mobile that I'm really looking forward to.

The question asked to the social media panel today was what's the future of social media? Susan Cooper from Facebook said "The future is tomorrow and we'll find the answer tomorrow". So what do you think tomorrow will bring?


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