BzzAgents and Ethics

I’ve been thinking a lot about the BzzAgent concept the last few weeks. I’m just not crazy about the idea of paying people to talk positively about your products. I talked to a friend today at length about this issue. He had a brilliant point: The BzzAgent concept removes the client even further from the consumer. After all, BzzAgents (i.e. theoretical consumers) don’t typically interact with the company in question at all. And the company doesn’t get direct feedback from consumers, there is no conversation… BzzAgents submit reports to the BzzAgent company and then they submit the results to the client company.

BzzAgents is nothing new in the slightest, it’s just the latest twist on old school marketing of marketing to consumers rather than with consumers.

That conversation started from a discussion about the new draft version of the WOMMA Code of Ethics. My friend rightly pointed out that the motives and direction of the Code of Ethics are highly suspect when one of the founding members is the CEO of BzzAgent, and may be simply trying to seek industry acceptance and legitimacy for their ethically questionable concept.

Of course, maybe this balances out by having the Intelliseek folks on board. I’m more and more impressed every time I read or learn more about them.

I’ll be speaking at the WOMMA Summit in a few weeks and I’m very interested to hear more about how they balance the concepts of BzzAgent with their statement about how they define word of mouth:

 Ethical marketers reject all tactics related to manipulation, deception, infiltration, or dishonesty.

All of which are basically the business model of BzzAgent.

And OK, I know this is a nit, but come on – why is it that the Word of Mouth Marketing Association has a blog that is nothing like a blog? And has no commenting ability?

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