An Ethicist’s Look At Buzz

Thanks to Spike Jones at Brains On Fire for pointing us to this Miami Herald article on buzz marketing by Edward Wasserman, professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University.

Advocates do rhapsodize about all this with the fervor of real conviction, as the height of authenticity, a way to empower the lowly grassroots of the buying public. It brings a lump to the throat. The website of buzzmarketing.com makes the whole push sound like some proud insurgency. ”We don’t think like normal advertising, marketing, and PR people. We defy convention” Word of mouth is ”the oldest, most effective form of marketing on earth,” which raises the question of what convention it could be defying.
One could be honesty. Commercial Alert, a commercialization watchdog, complained to the Federal Trade Commission in October about Procter & Gamble’s Tremor campaign. That’s a four-year-old program that, USA Today says, uses 250,000 teenagers to talk to friends about new things that P&G sends them. Tremor also purportedly rents out these teens to such pals as Toyota, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods, and the watchdog group wondered whether the entire undertaking might not be fundamentally deceitful.

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan seeking the perfect pale ale in the Pacific Northwest. Copywriter and brand strategist at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp.