Friday, November 24, 2006

WOM Marketers Eye Xmas Parties

In a move that risks bringing further shame to the advertising industry, some word of mouth marketers are hiring conversationalists to attend Holiday parties and name-drop for various brands. The "party plants," as they are being called, will be fitted with tiny earpieces through which they will be instructed from a remote location when and how to fit an advertiser into a conversation.

"Let's say your boss is sipping a rum and cola while you introduce your significant other at this year's office Christmas party," offers Heather Huchster, Vice-President of Nothing is Sacred, LLC, a word of mouth marketing firm in Kansas City, "At this point, the conversation monitors, operating from a call center, will be able to prompt the attendee to talk about Bacardi, Coca-Cola or other brands among a list of those who've paid for this valuable service. Or let's imagine someone compliments your purse, at which point you will be prompted to talk about the great savings you found on purses at Macy's."

Known as PPC (Pay Per Conversation), the practice is drawing critcism from traditional advertisers.

"I really don't want to wonder if the person I'm talking to is being paid to shill for a brand," said Trey Kuhle, an art director from New York City.

But Huchster counters that this new form of marketing is just a step beyond the Pay Per Post blogging model, in which bloggers are paid to write positive things for paying companies. "Whether it's product placement in a movie or preroll before your next YouTube view, you can't escape advertising," said Huchster, "And if you don't like it, you are free to keep your mouth shut and sit in the corner."

Huchster would not disclose the payment plan for the new Pay Per Conversation model, but allowed that some conversations will be more valuable than others.

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