Automated Webinars - What would the FTC think?

25 replies
Like fake blogs, then clickbank cracking down on the 'only 300 copies available', 'order by midnight tonight' and all the similar tomfoolery.

Surely it isn't the individual tactics that the FTC dislike, but the theme of dishonesty as a whole.

What way can automated webinars be used and not be deceptive? Have you ever seen them being used in a non deceptive way?

I'm not talking about wording things in a way that you think will protect you in case of a crackdown.

I assume they are so effective because people think they are at an event, in real time, with real people, and that has a powerful effect. But how is that anything other than deliberately constructing a deceptive facade simply because it makes more sales?

Isn't it just a deceptive trick? Wouldn't it be the exact type of thing that entices more scrutiny and tighter regulations from the FTC?
#automated #ftc #webinars
  • Profile picture of the author mgreener
    Automated webinars can have many uses that have nothing to do with deception.

    They can be used to teach and for lead generation in an honest way. Example: A Lawyer (yeah, lawyer and honest in the same paragraph, lol) explaining how to setup a business and then prompting you to contact for more information. This saves him an eternity by not having to go through the process each time with prospects and at the same time provides a better service to those prospects as they are able to get the information in a planned, organized manner.

    Small businesses should REALLY be using webinars this way to free up their time.
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    • Profile picture of the author Charlie Parker
      Originally Posted by mgreener View Post

      Automated webinars can have many uses that have nothing to do with deception.

      They can be used to teach and for lead generation in an honest way. Example: A Lawyer (yeah, lawyer and honest in the same paragraph, lol) explaining how to setup a business and then prompting you to contact for more information. This saves him an eternity by not having to go through the process each time with prospects and at the same time provides a better service to those prospects as they are able to get the information in a planned, organized manner.

      Small businesses should REALLY be using webinars this way to free up their time.
      That would just be a tutorial video would it not.

      The word webinar wouldn't need to be used in that situation at all.

      It's the way in which automated webinars are being used I'm talking about.
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      • Profile picture of the author Hesaidblissfully
        Originally Posted by Charlie Parker View Post

        That would just be a tutorial video would it not.
        I believe what he's describing is an educational webinar.

        i don't think automated webinars would be a very big issue on the FTC's radar. If you're specifically advertising something as a LIVE event, when it's actually recorded, then that's dishonest, yes, but you're not "scamming" people, in the sense of ripping them off, which is generally the type of thing that tends to bring the attention of the FTC.
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  • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
    Why would you assume a webinar is a live event?

    Many reputable webinars -- those provided by real companies outside of the IM niche on real topics, with a real subject matter, with an intent to provide real information (and are not simply long advertisements) will state when they were recorded.

    On the other hand, if the recorded webinar has a time-sensitive pitch at the end, such as only 100 will ever be sold, grab yours now, that is an obvious FTC problem, if the webinar keeps running after 100 are sold.

    .
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  • Profile picture of the author Zeus66
    I think as long as you don't advertise it as a "live webinar" you'll be fine. But there are some programs on the market that are specifically designed to fool viewers into believing it is a live event. That's dishonest and I would bet the FTC would have a problem with it. It's all about intent.
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    • Profile picture of the author WarpedMind
      Personally, I don't feel comfortable using the feature that makes it look like you have hundreds of other people logging on at staggered times, when in reality you're the only one watching the video.

      That's just me though. Others may feel comfortable using names of previous viewers (real ones). I can see that too... but totally making up people, well that's a different story.

      I guess it's just a question of ethics and common sense and how much of each you have.

      I'm not judging... just my opinion.
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  • Profile picture of the author Willie Crawford
    Automated or pre-recorded webinars have been used for
    years in industries outside of IM.


    The biggest reason that I can see for using them is that
    once you get down a close that works, just as with
    good copy, you don't change it until you find something
    that works better.

    It also makes it easy to match webinars up to time zones
    for people around the world.

    I wouldn't tell or imply that the event was live unless it
    was... but people can sense when deception is being
    used there anyway.

    Willie
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  • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
    Originally Posted by Charlie Parker View Post

    What way can automated webinars be used and not be deceptive?
    Just tell people it's automated.

    Sure, that may not convert as well, but deceptive conversion is unethical.
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    • Profile picture of the author packerfan
      Wait, you mean all these webinars I keep getting invited to aren't live. Ah crap...

      j/k - It blows my mind that people just don't say upfront they're recorded. Who cares. I watch a lot of TV that isn't live. It's not like there's something special about a live event.

      The only purpose of a live event is the Q&A. Just provide a way for folks to get their questions answered and move on.
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      • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
        Banned
        Originally Posted by packerfan View Post

        Wait, you mean all these webinars I keep getting invited to aren't live. Ah crap....
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  • Originally Posted by Charlie Parker View Post

    I assume they are so effective because people think they are at an event, in real time, with real people
    That's wrong.

    The reason as of why webinars (live or automated) are so effective is because you control the entire marketing process. You decide at what point through the webinar to offer valuable content, when to insert a sales pitching section, when to release the call-to-action message, etc. In a standard sales page, it's VERY difficult to control all those variables, but in a webinar event you (the marketers) are in full command.

    In a webinar there's a host conducting the show (as per his marketing interests). In a standard sales page there's not. And that makes a world of a difference. That's why they convert that well: you control the tempo and your audience is paying full attention to it. These two variables combined is where the secret of webinar success truly is!

    On top of that, the user pre-selects the most convenient date+time to attend the event. When you email your subscribers to watch a video, they may not be able to watch it at that specific time. In automated webinars, they pre-select the time, plus they're reminded via email+SMS of that time, which multiplies attendance, receptiveness and attention levels.

    There are a number of reasons as of why webinars work, and it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with whether they're live or recorded. Think about infomercials on TV: they're pre-recorded and they still convert like crazy. Well, automated webinars are pretty much the same thing: they're the internet's infomercials
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  • Profile picture of the author cashcow
    I don't understand the difference between an automated webinar and just a regular video. Would it not be the same thing? Or do the automated webinars still offer a live Q&A at the end?

    Personally I would prefer an automated one if it means that I can watch it whenever I want. I don't like having to rearrange my schedule to go to a live webinar.

    Lee
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by cashcow View Post

      Or do the automated webinars still offer a live Q&A at the end?
      A number of automated webinar solutions allow for live Q&A during the event. Basically, you're watching a video, but support is also there at the event in case you have a question. It's a hybrid model.

      There are two different ways this can go, at opposite extremes.

      Option one, the high-value option: I want to do the best possible job on my presentation AND the live interaction, so I don't want to divide my attentions. I'll record my presentation, and once I get it perfect I'll put it up for you to watch while I concentrate on giving good answers to your questions.

      Option two, the scammy-crap option: I can't be arsed to meet your schedule, so watch this video while a cheap outsourcer logs into my account and pastes canned answers to the questions he recognises in the chat.

      The closer you get to option one, the more I like your usage of the system. But you can get awfully far from option one without getting anywhere near option two.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alan Petersen
    Originally Posted by Anonymous Affiliate View Post

    I do automated webinars all the time. In fact, I'm the co-creator of one of the best selling Automated Webinar scripts in the world (backlink removed)which has sold thousands of copies.

    The trick is to not lie to your registrants. Instead of wording it as a "live event", I always recommend to word it as a "valuable tutorial event", which is what it really is. It doesn't water down the value of the event in any way, and you remain 100% honest.

    Nothing wrong with that, and these automated webinars can easily increase your sales conversions 5-fold if compared to a standard sales page (I've tested it multiple times with my own webinar events).
    So why add features like allowing to add made up names of non-existent fake attendees? And showing these fake names dropping in and off of your "webinar" if not to encourage your customers to trick people into believing they're attending a live webinar?

    You give them these "sneaky" tools as you called them and then tell them they should be honest and not lie. Too funny.

    There is nothing wrong with using a recorded event as a webinar as long as people are upfront that it's recorded.

    But a lot of the automated webinar products the subtle pitch is that you can trick people into believing it's a live webinar. That is their USP.
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    • Originally Posted by Alan Petersen View Post

      So why add features like allowing to add made up names of non-existent fake attendees? And showing these fake names dropping in and off of your "webinar" if not to encourage your customers to trick people into believing they're attending a live webinar?

      You give them these "sneaky" tools as you called them and then tell them they should be honest and not lie. Too funny.
      Do you know what's actually too funny? The fact that you can turn ALL those features off if you wish. The software simply gives you all the possibilities, bells and whistles, but it's YOUR responsibility and YOUR judgement to decide what use to make out of it.

      Example: Cars can throttle up to 200 mph, yet the legal limit is 55. You can use that car to drive your kids to school, or you can use it to race recklessly in the streets. Who is to blame, the car or the driver?

      Apply ethics and common sense in your automated webinars (and in your marketing), and no FTC will give you any problem whatsoever.
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      • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
        Originally Posted by Anonymous Affiliate View Post

        Do you know what's actually too funny? The fact that you can turn ALL those features off if you wish.
        But the question remains, because features do not exist by default. Someone has to write them.

        So the ability to add fake names to your webinar, and for those fake names to appear and disappear on the webinar, is something someone thought was important enough to pay a developer to write it - and it's quite likely because they thought people wanted to do that, which in many cases is because they asked for it.

        It's not that you are being forced to use the system unethically. It's that the system is designed to be used by unethical people. It includes features which literally have no ethical purpose. So while you might not use them yourself, it is rather important to ask why they are there in the first place.
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  • I repeat what I said before CDarklock: a Ferrari can potential drive up to 200mph whereas the legal max is 55. Would you conclude then that Ferraris are unethical (Quoting you: "someone thought that is was important enough to pay an engineer for the car to be able to break the legal limits")? or would you say that reckless Ferrari drivers are the ones to blame?

    At any rate, I'm not interested in arguing semantics. Automated Webinars can boost your conversions 5-fold (I know from first-hand experience), and they can do so 100% ethically. Whether you want to use them and benefit from them, it's entirely up to you.
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by Anonymous Affiliate View Post

      I repeat what I said before CDarklock: a Ferrari can potential drive up to 200mph whereas the legal max is 55.
      Not on the autobahn. And we are still talking about driving, which is what a car does. The ability to perform its intended function beyond the bounds of reason is not in any way unethical.

      But if it were modified to, say, inflate artificial people from the seats and make it look like more people were in the car... you sort of have to ask why. And if people are using that feature to drive in the carpool lane, which is illegal, it starts to be questionable whether this is precisely why the feature exists.

      Whereas when someone is driving a Ferrari at 85 mph down the highway, it does not lead anyone to ask why a Ferrari can be driven at all.
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  • Profile picture of the author lotsofsnow
    Originally Posted by Charlie Parker View Post

    Isn't it just a deceptive trick? Wouldn't it be the exact type of thing that entices more scrutiny and tighter regulations from the FTC?
    Yes, it is a deceptive trick.

    Webinars "work" one or two times per person. After that the person knows that it's just a shady trick to make people go through a sales presentation.

    If it is a live webinar the attendee at least has a chance to get a question or two answered but when it is just a recorded thing it is just awful.

    It is fine if it is made 100% clear up front that it is a recorded webinar but if there is only the slightest doubt in the listeners mind whether it is live or recorded the whole thing is a deceptive trick.
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  • I seriously doubt some of you are actual marketers, or understand how marketing frames a campaign so it engages the audience.

    - I assume we should cry for the FTC when Bon Jovi goes to a TV show and pulls a playback, correct? I mean, how dare him to pretend to be playing live if it's a record, right? Look at him, he even fakes the stress and passion of a live concert!!! FTC should undoubtly nail Bon Jovi. If you call automated webinars unethical and FTC-material, then you should riot against playback because it is the same damn thing!

    - FTC should also nail all those sitcom shows ("Friends" etc) for playing those canned laughters like if they were real people laughing at the show. How dare they to try to trick me to believe that the show is popular and funny with those fake canned laughters? FTC should put those guys down!

    - And what about TV Infomercials, with that "live" audience (obviously paid actors) who cheer, clap and go "ooohhh" and "wow!" or "this is amazing!" every time the host cuts through a metal can with the promoted set of knives, or every time they excercise with the Abs Shaper? How dare they to pretend creating a fake cheerful atmosphere and social proof with paid actors?! FTC, I summon you!

    I just dont understand how some of you call yourselves "marketers"...
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by Anonymous Affiliate View Post

      I seriously doubt some of you are actual marketers
      And I seriously doubt you're this stupid, but keep talking - you're starting to convince me.

      Nobody is saying automated webinars are unethical. NOBODY. The only thing we've said is unethical is lying to your customers, which you've already taken a stand against.

      Except you're defending a software feature that willfully deceives your customers. Which, you know, is commonly called "lying." And you keep trying to compare it to other things, because you're apparently unable to see the difference between "a fake person logging in and out of a web event" and "a car driving faster than the speed limit" or "a musician lip-syncing a recording of his own performance."

      I mean, come on. Are you ACTUALLY this stupid? Can you honestly not tell that these are different things?

      Or do you just not give a crap?
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  • Profile picture of the author successjunky
    Does anybody know a really good automated webinar script
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  • Profile picture of the author FromBrokeToRich
    Any method of marketing can be done in non deceptive ways.

    Automated webinars are no different.

    If you want to use an automated webinar to get your message out then just do it... in a non deceptive way.

    Not sure why there is any confusion on this topic.
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  • Profile picture of the author christopher s
    I agree with what most people are saying here. If you're saying that its a live webinar and designing it to look like others are there when its not live at all, then this is dishonest and probably should get you in trouble.

    I doubt many people will actually get fined by the FTC over it any time soon, but who knows.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alan Petersen
      Originally Posted by Anonymous Affiliate View Post

      I seriously doubt some of you are actual marketers...
      Ah, the arrogance. Anyone that disagrees with you must not be a "real marketer".

      As CD noted, no one here is against pre-recorded webinars. It's about lying and basically defrauding people into thinking they're attending a live event that's the question here. So don't try to confuse the issue.

      You even agreed that people should be honest about that so the issue is why add features that allows people to do the opposite.

      Your Ferrari comparison is far fetched but what the heck. As CD already mentioned the overall function of the Ferrari, to drive, is still there whether people drive 30 MPH or 200 MPH. And there is legitimate reasons to drive that fast, car racing (professional and armature on a track), and on places where there are no speed limits.

      But, what would happen if Ferrari or any car manufacture where to add a new feature to their cars, a radar speed gun jammer so drivers could jam cops radar speed guns.

      Do you think the police would be upset? The appropriate transportation regulatory bodies? The government? Would they perhaps go after Ferrari for adding this new option to their cars. I would say... mmm, yes.

      But wait the Ferrari rep says, you can turn the jammer off. So only bad people who want to break the law would turn it on. So their hands are clean.

      Not likely.

      There is no legitimate reason to add a radar speed gun jammer to a car and it wouldn't be allowed.

      Just as there is no legitimate reason to add a feature that allows people to trick others into thinking there are 100 attendees to a "webinar" that has zero attendees.

      And even worse give the false illusion that's it's a live event as it shows fake people dropping on and off.

      At least stand by your features, good, bad, and ugly.

      To throw your customer's under the bus for not being honest for using a feature you provide and market to them as a "sneaky" feature is disingenuous.

      If honesty and integrity is so important why not just remove a feature whose only purpose is to do the opposite?
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