Buzz Agents(ies)

Ogilvy PR and its 360 Degree Digital Influence group led by Bell, is a leader in the social media and comprehensive digital marketing arena and helps clients navigate an increasingly complex and rapidly changing digital environment.”

Hmmm. Sounds like a typical press release. Hey, it is!

When I think of the PR firms that are leading the social media revolution, those under the Omnicom, Interpublic and WPP umbrellas are not the first that come to mind. Converseon, Voce, TopRank, echoditto, Thornley Fallis, and even Text 100 are a few that are doing things differently among the PR players.

Even the firm leading the Me2 Revolution remains, by and large, predominantly focused on generating MSM coverage for its blue chip clients. (Ask anyone who works there.) I don’t blame them though given that this staid old PR competency continues to thrive as a bread and butter business.

I also don’t want to make a gross generalization since every major PR firm does have a (growing) cadre of digital and social media experts within its ranks. But, other than the tuned-in musings of Rohit Bhargava, I wouldn’t think of Ogilvy as a thought leader in the “digital marketing arena.” And I’m not sure its new strategic partnership puts them there.

Yesterday, the firm announced a decidedly inorganic approach to bolstering its digital reputation. It aligned itself with BzzAgent, a firm that:

… allows companies to generate honest, credible awareness and collect valuable feedback on products and services through its growing community of 370,000 consumer volunteers who have been educated on effective and ethical approaches to opinion sharing.

Hmmm. Sounds like typical press release. Hey, it is!

This “news” also rings a bell. Didn’t IPG form a strategic partnership with this word-of-mouth astroturfing, I mean, marketing company last fall? And didn’t that follow a similar agreement last spring with WPP’s M Group in the UK?

So I ask:

Do the progeny of the big ad holding companies believe that sending Moms free swag to secure their supposedly “honest” product endorsements constitute digital word-of-mouth marketing?

And why isn’t BzzAgent’s WOM-generating tactics any different from the much-maligned efforts to “influence” bloggers with swag that consisted of hellified laptops, pricey digital SLRs, and the like?

Just curious.