"Never guarantee conversion rates." That's one of the first things they teach you in advertising. Never predict what the ROI will be. You'll sound like a kook. A con-artist. A shyster. You'll be cast out of advertising Valhalla forever.
Advertising Age says, "BzzAgent, a network of regular-Joe brand advocates, is making a big bet that word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing will outperform any other discipline when it comes to ringing registers and driving advocacy brands."
BzzAgent is "inviting any brand marketer and its agency partners to take part in a challenge... of competing campaigns. If BzzAgent does not top the competing agency by 20% across four metrics- brand awareness, consumer opinion, purchase intent and actual sales- the agency will refund the marketer the cost of its word-of-mouth campaign and its measurement costs."
Seems like a risky publicity stunt.
Dave Balter, founder and CEO of BzzAgent told Advertising Age, "Are we 100% sure we can outperform all other mediums by 20%? No, but we're pretty confident we can do something special here. It's time to put our money where our mouth is."
The "bet" requires a minimum investment of $300k in WOM media and "traditional media" in order for BzzAgent to recognize it. Insight Express, a third-party digital-marketing research firm, will be handling all measurement aspects to insure fair play. And that's where things get even more tricky. BzzAgent wants to prove that WOM "outperforms other disciplines and [that] the program increase[s] the number of marketers running word-of-mouth campaigns". The article does not say with which products in which markets.
"What we are really trying to accomplish," Balter says, "is to get word-of-mouth to be valued on a measurement basis for marketers." Which is something the industry has balked at for eons. If you put the power in the people's hands, how can you control the spin of the product?
Can WOM, in the Internet age, clear the market of poor product and foul play? It's hard to say. It probably depends on the product and the demographic. And what doesn't in advertising? But BzzAgent may be on to something. With "nearly 280 clients... It has seen six quarters of growth and 2007 was its strongest year to date."
Better ROI made 20% better by WOM? It better be a better quality product in an atmosphere conducive to "spreading the word". Lots of variables, little control on campaign. You gotta appreciate the balls of BzzAgent and their challenge to keep it simple.