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Eloqua and Marketo Debate Social Media Ethics on Twitter

By December 8, 2011 4 Comments
Joe Chernov and Jon Miller

Joe Chernov and Jon Miller

Marketing automation software heavyweights Eloqua and Marketo have been clashing over social media ethics on Twitter. The dispute began with Eloqua vice president of content marketing Joe Chernov linking to a Marketo promotion that looked to generate social media shares of Marketo in part by offering prizes. Chernov claimed the promotion is in violation of FTC regulations and WOMMA ethics standards.

Jon Miller, founder and vice president of marketing for Marketo, responded by pointing to an Eloqua promotion that offered hotel upgrades in return for social shares regarding Eloqua. Both sides denied the accusations, saying their promotions contain disclosures that make them compliant with the regulations and standards. (See highlights of the debate in our Storify roundup below.)

Both companies have had a transformative impact on marketing operations, providing software that enables marketers to produce more, and higher-quality, leads online.

While the debate highlights some of the ethical complexities in web promotions today, more than anything it seems to illustrate the intensity of the competition between these two firms, both of which have seen increasing success and growth. Additionally, both companies have been champions of content marketing, practicing it in their own operations and advocating it to their customers.

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  • Joe Chernov says:

    Thank you for publishing this fantastic post. It’s the start to a valuable discussion. I only regret that the “battle” appears to be Eloqua vs. Marketo, when it’s more accurate to characterize the combatants as Marketo vs. Transparency.

    First off, Jon did as Jon does. When his company’s contempt for transparency is exposed (more on that in a moment), he tries to misdirect the discussion by pointing a crooked finger in someone else’s direction. It’s hard to argue with the fact that his company ran a promotion that offered prizes for positive tweets, yet none contained any disclosure of the compensation. Even Jon’s sidekick Maria Pergolino conceded the tweets violated Marketo’s ethics code (see her comments: So my question is this: if the tweets violated Marketo’s policy why did several members of Jon’s own team (including the social strategist who, presumably, would know better) retweet them?

    But this isn’t Marketo’s first experience with ethical hanky panky. The aforementioned Pergolino has a history of manipulating her Quora bio to obfuscate her employer (, Marketo’s SVP of Sales (Bill Binch) reviewed the company’s products on a website (ironically) named “Web of Trust” ( without saying he worked at Marketo (the reviews were glowing, by the way), hell, at least one employee of Marketo reviewed the company’s “book” (aka marketing collateral) as if he were an ordinary reader ( The list goes on. This is a pattern of behavior.

    Returning to the contest in question, the logical question to ask is: What does Marketo have to say for themselves? If you read comments on my blog and Jon’s on Twitter, the answer is: not all that much (assuming you disregard the retaliatory accusations). They say that clear disclosure mandates *do* in fact exist, just … wait for it … behind log-in. (“The firewall blocked my disclosure!”) Yet when social media A-lister Augie Ray asked Jon for an example of someone who adhered to his rule, the Marketo co-founder had no reply. Anyone who has read the FTC’s 80-page Guides (which I have, twice, in addition to meeting with them in person, twice, and co-presenting with them on a Webinar), would know that the sponsor is responsible not only for requiring disclosure, but also for making sure it happens. At a minimum, Jon failed the second prong of the test. (And when you recall that his team cheered the violating tweets, one has to question the existence of the first prong as well.)

    This all brings us to Jon’s “smoking gun”: the (drumroll) Eloqua contest. Could our contest have been tighter? Absolutely. But was it in violation of even the most Milleresque interpretation of the FTC Guides? Not even close. We required for qualification that participants tag an Eloqua Facebook page in their status updates. That tag creates a link, hardwired in the testimonial, which brings the viewer to a public — not hiding behind log-in as in Marketo’s contest — page featuring all rules and disclosures. To be fully honest, I don’t love this contest because I think there is one too many links in the chain. One too many clicks to reach the disclosure. But the larger point is this: There *is* a disclosure in our campaign; there is not one in Marketo’s. That’s the fundamental difference. Hardwiring disclosure as we did is considered a WOMMA best practice. How do I know this? Because I was on the panel that introduced the concept:

    I imagine Jon will continue to try to misdirect the discussion. But why he wants to play this hand when all he’s holding is a pair of 3’s is beyond me. He might have studied physics at Harvard, but he sure didn’t study ethics. Or common sense. If you want to moderate an in-person debate on social media ethics between he and I, count me in. I would pay for the trip at my own personal expense. Jon has said (in a past debate on GooglePlus) that Marketo’s ethics code is based largely on the work I have done in this industry. I will tell your readers what I told him: Having a code is one thing; enforcing it is something else entirely.

    Joe Chernov / @jchernov

    • Thanks Joe for your super thoughtful and thorough comment. As more and more of marketing activity occurs through social channels, the issues that you raise here are becoming more and more relevant. The deep analysis you’ve provided adds a lot of insight to this issue.

      • Joe Chernov says:

        Thanks for your reply. I suppose my only lingering issue about this topic is that some people are trying to frame it as a debate: Joe vs. Jon. And while the back-and-forth has all of the polemics of a debate, it’s no more even-footed an argument than a fire chief arguing about burning buildings with a pyromaniac. Of course, I am not suggesting that (a.) Jon plays with matches, nor that (b.) what his marketing department does is anywhere near as menacing as arson, but rather this: just because two people see the same situation — in this case, the importance of transparency — from two polar opposite perspectives, doesn’t mean that each opinion is as viable as the other. -Joe

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