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What To Do If Your Competitors' Ads Are Untrue
 

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Should you sue a competitor that lies? Earlier this year, Pantene attacked Dove over ads claiming that Dove conditioner actually repairs hair better than Pantene. But it's hardly the only corporation getting aggressive over ad copy during the recession, Stephanie Clifford reports for The New York Times. AT&T and Verizon and Campbell's and Progresso have also duked in out in court recently. The goal is not a payout, but to get the maligning claim withdrawn or altered. "Since advertisers are required by law to have a reasonable factual basis for their commercials," says Clifford. "Their competitors are essentially demanding that they show their hand." The National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau (the industry's primary self-regulating program for national ads) received a record 82 formal complaints this year. At $2,500 to $20,000 per complaint it's cheaper than suing. Other brands are filing suits under the Lanham Act, passed in 1946 to strengthen trademark law. But buyers don't necessarily respond to the in-fighting. After Progresso and Campbell both filed complaints, sales of ready-to-serve wet soups declined. "They're navel-gazing and they're not thinking about what consumers want to hear," Adland author James P. Othmer told the Times.

Did a VC firm steal a business idea from a babysitting service? The Boston Globe has the story behind the surprisingly bitter rivalry between two babysitting websites, Sittercity and Care.com. The intrigue all started when the founder of Sittercity, Genevieve Thiers, met with the VC firm Matrix Partners to discuss possible funding for her business. Three months after that initial meeting, one of the Matrix Partners principals, Sheila Marcelo, started Care.com, a babysitter referral business that is in direct competition with Sittercity. Marcelo denies allegations that she stole any business ideas from Sittercity, stating in an e-mail, "The idea that 'trade secrets' gleaned from anyone else's business helped Care.com or hurt anyone else's business is, frankly, false." A follow-up article goes even deeper into backstory behind the whole sorted tale.

What's a $9 billion check look like? Like this. Just in case you were curious, the Huffington Post provides the link. It's from an emergency loan Morgan Stanley received from a Japanese bank, which helped save the investment company. Cue jealousy/outrage/bewilderment.

Will subversive advertising spell the end of Twitter? MySpace was doomed when the social network became overrun with obnoxious ads. On the heels of a New York Times article alerting users that their friends tweets could actually be an ad, Valleywag predicts Twitter is following in MySpace's footsteps. The problem, argues Valleywag, isn't advertorial content, but the fact that the tweets in question look like endorsements from the user, and aren't designated as ads until you see the "(Ad)" or "#ad" or "#sponsor" at the end of the 140 characters. What's more the entrepreneurs behind companies like Izea that facilitate this kind of sponsorship haven't always been forthright about disclosing whether or not a tweet is an ad. Izea CEO Ted Murphy used to run Pay Per Post, which Valleywag and TechCrunch both agreed was guilty of some pretty sleazy manipulation.

Preparing for your business launch. Pre-launch preparation can be a paperwork-intensive process. The Wall Street Journal, though, outlines what you need to know about permits, licenses, and more.

Turning up the glitz to woo holiday shoppers. Unnerved by forecasts of grim holiday sales, malls are pulling out all the stops to try and get shoppers in the door. At the Beverly Center in Los Angeles, aerialists twirl 80 feet off the ground as escalator riders gawk. The mall has bumped it's holiday marketing spending up one third from past years in hopes of encouraging a "spillover effect" in which customers come solely for the special events but leave with lighter wallets. "Every resource that you can imagine has been deployed," said Jeff Brown, the mall's general manager. "It's just this big, grandiose, epic sort of show, and it's based on capturing the escapism that people were looking for in the 1930s when the country hit hard times." Don't have the budget to put on a three ring circus? Here are some other tips on maximizing your holiday sales.

Is Wikipedia faltering? The online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which has become the dominant reference guide thanks to free labor from millions of online volunteers, has been losing writers at an increasing rate, according to the Wall Street Journal. "[T]he declines in participation have raised questions about the encyclopedia's ability to continue expanding its breadth and improving its accuracy," according to the article. They also raise questions about the long-term viability of crowd-sourcing, the idea that small contributions from dispersed groups can turn into sustaining businesses. The article notes that the declines may say less about enthusiasm for Wikipedia, which has 34 employees, and more about the site's evolution from a freewheeling forum to something that more closely resembles a traditional research project.

New economic survey indicates joblessness will soon bottom out. The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) released a study today which shows that net employment losses are expected to rebound in the first quarter of 2010, the Associated Press reports. The survey predicts that employers will start adding to their payrolls shortly after that. But don't expect them to ramp up fast enough to replace the 7.3 million jobs that were lost since December 2007--that's not likely to happen until 2012.

Apple leaving a bad taste? Following a recent BusinessWeek article in which Phil Schiller, a senior vice president at Apple, attempted to address tech developers' growing dissatisfaction with the App Store approval process, TechCrunch has aired a few grievances about the interview and the "negative impact" the App Store is having on the mobile development community. "Developers may like the concept having an external [quality assurance] safety net that helps catch bugs, but not one that's incredibly inconsistent and penalizes them with extended delays and notoriously bad communication," the post says, in response to Schiller's assertion that developers actually like the review process. The post echoes the statements of many developers who have complained about Apple's strict app guidelines, including Howcast co-founder Sanjay Raman and Facebook's Joe Hewitt, who recently announced he'd quit developing for the iPhone altogether.

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Last updated: Nov 23, 2009




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