Dave Balter, the guy who runs BzzAgent, wrote some comments on his blog saying
my criticism of his company was a “pr stunt.” Dave, I don’t need the press. However, I would expect this kind of spin
from the CEO of a company that the New York Times says is based on lies and deception (if the New York Times
got there story wrong, please let me know).
[Note: I just had a conversation with Dave on the phone. We agreed it was off the record, and I’m
going to honor that. Dave seems like a decent guy, but it’s clear to me that BzzAgent is in bunker mode. So, I’m going
to keep pushing them to stop what they are doing and come out against deception, and they will”I predict”ignore me like
Seth Godin has been. Silence, of course, speaks volumes.]
Dave, can’t you see that what you’re doing is making the world a worse place to live in?
No one on this planet wants their friends covertly pitching them on products. Do you want this for yourself? Why are
you imposing it on the rest of us?
Your company and your “agents” are trying to find ways to spin this form of marketing, but the truth is you are
forgetting the people on the other side of the experience”we are real people Dave, and we have rights too!
As much as we hate disruptive advertising we would much rather sit through 30-second spot after 30 second spot then
have to guess which one of the last 10 interactions with our friends was bought and paid for! If your innovation is to
“reconceptualize” advertising so it is covert that is not an innovation”that is a regression!
Dave, you seem like a very motivated and smart guy. I can’t for the life of me figure out why you are making
dishonesty your life’s mission. Help me understand, I want to understand. When did you decide to take the low road?
Why would you want to do something so”well”slimy as getting people to lie and deceive their friends? When you were
in school and looking towards your future did you ask yourself “how can I get people to lie to their friends so I can
The most respected folks in the business are telling you to come out against lying, force your agents to disclose what
they are doing, and drop the rewards program.
I’m not alone in telling you to stop the lying and deception. Read the links below Dave. Your firm is detested by
people”I’m not alone.
Dave, you shouldn’t be proud the David Byrne of Talking Heads fame mentioned you on his blog”you should be ashamed!
He is scared by what you are doing, not jazzed up about it! If anyone in this is trying to milk the press it is you
No one in the world”except low-class marketers”wants your products and services. Any company that would do business
with a firm that the New York Times says is paying people to lie needs to think about who they associate with.
Again, if the New York Times got you all wrong why don’t you write a blog post about it?
Where is your claimed transparency Dave? Where is Seth Godin’s transparency?
Oh yeah, one more quesiton, what is your relationship with Seth? Did you promote Seth’s book for free? Does he own
stock in your company? Talk about covert”you guys are throwing a lot speculation fuel on the fire with this one
Just read the selection of comments about your firm below Dave, it tells the story. Hundreds of people are telling you
that you’re making the world a worse place to live in. This isn’t about press clips Dave (we both have plenty), this is
about the society we choose to live in. You and I are members of this society and we can define our reality.
You are choosing to add deception and dishonesty to the world, and all I’m trying to do is lobby you to stop.
Just stop Dave. Stop. Please?
Do good work Dave and I’ll support you. Engage the dialogue, don’t hide in your hive with the people who are so
drunk on the Bzz honey that they can’t see straight. End this entire debate by admitting that the things your firm did
in the past, after considered reflection, are bad, and that you’re going to reshape the business away from lying and
Read what people are saying about BzzAgent Dave. How can you sleep at
What people are saying about BzzAgent:
Doc Searls: “Several people have asked me what I think about BuzzAgent, so here’s my joint answer to all of them:
David Byrne: “We don’t know, for example, when someone is merely being helpful of informative, or even friendly, or
when they have a hidden agenda. When they’re slipping a bit of product placement into the conversation and when they’re
just engaging in the occasional mention of a book or brand as part of normal everyday life. So, in this world, which is
our world, no one is to be trusted. No one’s word, on this stuff at least, is to be taken at face value. And who knows,
the same techniques and maybe the same companies use this process for inserting ideas, political opinions and
“factoids” into normal society? Do I sound paranoid? I’m not making this stuff up. I’m merely extrapolating, trying to
determine the repercussions of this phenomena and what it means.”
“The most disturbing aspect of Bzzagentry described in
the Times article: trickery. Agents call up
bookstores and pretend not to know the name of the book or the author they’re “buzzing,” but still ask if it’s in
stock. Or they disguise their affiliation or motivations.”
Stowe Boyd: “the gumming up of everyday life with bottom-up but concealed marketing is just a new kind of social
Here in Denmark, yesterdays Metro newspaper lead with the headline “Hidden advertisments everywhere” and Minister
Henriette Kjr calls for making stealth advertising in any way shape or form illegal. The consumer ombudsman Hagen
Jrgensen has been calling for stricter laws since 1999: “I have tried to get a debate going about hidden
advertisments for a long time. If we don’t acknowledge hiddens ads as a problem soon the Danish consumers won’t be able
to choose when they will be advertised to.”
New York Times Message Board Quotes
“I’ve read coverage of this before and have a fairly simple reaction: this is beneath
“If you’re a shill for BzzAgent and feel proud to manipulate others, even your family and
friends, and then pathetically follow it up with a marketing report ” you need to STOP, count to ten, and regain your
grip on reality. First, if you have any sense of decency you MUST inform your mark that you are shilling for BzzAgent.
“I am extremely appreciative of the behind-the-scenes look into these
marketing companies and interviews with their persuaders, because it explains an important trend: the isolation of the
ordinary individual in our society, the lack of purpose in young adult’s lives, and the desire to overcome that, even
if the end result misses the mark (boosting profits for an uncaring corporation.)”
“BzzAgent’s tactics undermine whatever interpersonal trust and good faith remains between
individuals in our society. by forcing individuals to suspect the real motives of everyone they talk to, BzzAgent’s
tactics apply a strong solvent to the glue that holds our society together.
I’d like to suggest a slogan for BzzAgent: BzzAgent. We Put The Double-Quotes In ‘Friend’.”
“IS BZZAGENT AN ILLEGAL BUSINESS? in violation of the U.S. Fair Labor
Standards Act? I thought A For-Profit company could not hire unpaid volunteers? Didn’t AOL have lawsuits for unpaid
“BzzAgency and their ilk seem to have harnessed a profound desire in this culture for
authenticity and a sense of belonging, but as far as I can see, they have hitched it to the culture’s worst tendencies
” a mindless consumerism, a willingness to elide ethical distinctions, a kind of blindness about facts versus
“Remember, agents, that at the top of the food chain lots of money is changing hands. You are
shilling for one product rather than another because Mr. Bigbucks paid your boss money to have you do so. You are your
boss’s assets. He is pocketing money for your work. 5-10 hours a week! To shill sausages! For nothing. Darn nice of you
to help someone else to pocket money and then write reports about how you did so.”
“So, I ask all of you, why do you need BzzAgent? They’re making money from your enthusiasm while
contaminating the public discourse. BzzAgent has a financial bottom line as their motivator. Your NOT-FOR-PROFIT
collective would be a principled organization and a healthy antidote to sleazy marketing enterprises. “
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