Interpublic Partners With WOM Specialist BzzAgent
At the beginning of the year, Interpublic's Emerging Media Lab was placed under Interpublic's Futures Marketing Group, a mixture of smallish digital marketing assets and services directly tied to revenue generation.
"E-word-of-mouth--what most people call social media today--was near the top of the list of areas where we wanted to invest at the beginning of the year," explained Bant Breen, president of Interpublic's Futures Marketing Group.
Like its partnership with Joost, the BzzAgent deal guarantees special pricing and first-to-market opportunities for Interpublic's agencies and advertisers. BzzAgent entered into a similar agreement with Interpublic rival WPP Group earlier this year, although it is primarily U.K.-focused.
Interpublic agencies presently using BzzAgent's services include Draftfcb, Hill Holliday and Universal McCann.
"Rather than just using our services, we see these agencies becoming experts in the area of word-of-mouth," said BzzAgent CEO Dave Balter. Current industry leaders in this area include Havas' Arnold, Ogilvy PR, and Zenith Media's Moxie Interactive.
BzzAgent allows brands to activate, manage and measure product-related conversations triggered by its network of 320,000 trained consumer volunteers, known as "agents."
Breen said BzzAgent was of particular interest because of its ability to tie together online and offline buzz. "Getting a complete and cohesive picture is very important to our clients who now recognize the importance of e-word-of-mouth," he said.
Indeed, since BzzAgent was founded six years ago, word-of-mouth marketing has ridden the social media explosion to become a key measure of consumer engagement.
"This really is about word-of-mouth making that transitions from research to a top media platform," Balter said.
As a result, VNU's Nielsen last year entered the burgeoning marketplace for measuring online buzz, word-of-mouth and social media with the acquisition of BuzzMetrics. Following suit, TNS's TNS Media Intelligence unit earlier this year agreed to buy Cymfony, the chief competitor to Nielsen BuzzMetrics.
Also, GfK Starch Communications--which has measured the effectiveness of print ads for over 80 years by interviewing consumers in person--just this month began reporting responses gathered online. Among the more word-of-mouth-esque data that Starch is now reporting to advertisers is whether readers of an ad recommend a product or brand to others, and what actions, if any, readers take as a result of seeing an ad.
The interest in measuring word-of-mouth is indicative of how marketers are pressing companies to provide quantified and predictive data about consumer behavior to better predict return on marketing investments and, in turn, raise accountability.
For some marketers, buzz marketing and measurement only became a priority when nothing else worked. After performing poorly for months, the architects behind Anheuser-Busch's Bud.TV brought in New Media Strategies this summer.
Owned by Meredith Corp., New Media Strategies is part of that new breed of brand consultants that are closely measuring and monitoring online buzz, digital word-of-mouth, and blog activity to glean greater insights into consumer sentiments online.