June 29, 2011

A Lot Of Mouths Yapping

We all know that "buzz" is a lot more valuable than paid advertising.

How do we know this? Because the experts tell us so. And how do the experts know this? Because they go to conferences and convince each other.

According to an article entitled "Publicists Pump Up Value of Buzz; Don't Believe the Hype" in the The Wall Street Journal recently...
"...public-relations specialists, reasoning that news coverage carries greater weight with consumers than paid advertising, put a news article's value at three times an equivalent-size ad...
....publicist Max Markson...multiplies news coverage by five when assessing for clients the return on their investment..."
Asked how he arrived at a value of $10.5 million for a nice bit of buzz for one of his clients...
"Mr. Markson says he 'pulled the figure out of thin air'—because the reporter was on deadline."
But what if buzz is no more valuable than an ad? What if the experts are wrong and ads are just as persuasive as buzz?

This can't be possible, can it? The experts have assured us that there is a new breed of human being out there who no longer wants to be marketed to. She pays no attention to ads. She is immune to the "interruption model" and we need to get her "permission" to market to her.

Not so fast, says the Journal...
"David Michaelson, principal of David Michaelson & Co., a New York-based company that studies measurement of communications effectiveness, has compared the effect of publicity with traditional advertising in a controlled experiment. He and a co-author presented research subjects with a faked ad for an invented product, and a faked newspaper article about the same product. On a scale of 1 to 10, the article was a 10 "from the standpoint of a publicist's dream article," Dr. Michaelson says. Yet their study showed that the article was no more effective than the ad in building brand awareness.
Now here's something to think about. I have no idea of the validity of this study. But if it's true that people are not terribly moved by "buzz" in reputable media like newspapers, how much power do you think buzz has in dopey social media like blogs, and Twitter and Facebook?

Maybe buzz is exactly what it sounds like -- just a lot of mouths yapping.

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