CC and marketdroids? WTF?
May 1, 2005 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Creative Commons decides to partner with BzzAgent. Some aren't too happy. Maybe Matt can comment?
posted by monju_bosatsu (61 comments total)

These aren't the marketdroids you're looking for.
posted by furtive at 9:07 AM on May 1, 2005

BzzAngent stings back, tells unhappy WASP she's a liar.

(ok, the WASP part is an assumption but makes for better copy).
posted by furtive at 9:10 AM on May 1, 2005

Spinning the buzz about BzzAgent!
posted by ericb at 9:27 AM on May 1, 2005

To be honest? I didn't know we were working with bzzagent. I just heard a marketing company wanted to take us on pro-bono, and being a non-profit, when a company offers free services and is recommended by higher ups, you usually take them up on the deal.

I wasn't part of any of the discussions so I never did any due diligence on them. If I knew it was them I would have steered us clear.
posted by mathowie at 9:38 AM on May 1, 2005

furtive - Suw wishes it to be known that she's more of a WCD (White Celtic Daoist) than a WASP. But I digress.

More on topic: Does CreativeCommons really *need* a marketing company pushing it, when it's already got a lot of word of mouth energy going for it?
posted by Remy at 9:47 AM on May 1, 2005

Some would argue that any press is good press. Since Creative Commons itself is not inherently bad, I don't think using a word of mouth campaign is a bad thing either, especially when it's offered pro bono.

Others might argue that BzzAgent is evil. I don't agree. Say what you will about how their technique differs from traditional advertising but I personally would rather have someone tell me how good something is, and be given the opportunity to try the product first hand rather than being subjected to the equally over-hyped and often dubious/misleading claims of television, print or internet ads. From what I've read, people who work for BzzAgent are asked to only promote those things which they are willing to promote.

Besides, if for example a friend tells me that Microsoft DRM is the shit, it doesn't matter whether he said so because he works for Microsoft, BzzAgent or if he read it from PCWorld magazine or a comment of Mefi, either way I'll still think critically about what he said. And at least he won't subject me to it every five minutes during Simpsons/Family Guy/American Dad tonight the way Fox will subject us to their advertising.
posted by furtive at 9:48 AM on May 1, 2005

So, uh, mathowie, would you recommend that Creative Commons pull the plug on this immediately?

I sure would. This is a pure and simple bid by a sleazy company of unusually underhanded paid liars - whose oh-so-earnest self-defense is a key part of the Culture Of Sham the West is rapidly sliding downhill towards - to burnish its image by allying itself with a movement aimed at openness.

It's disgusting, and it's not doing Creative Commons *any* good.
posted by mediareport at 9:52 AM on May 1, 2005

On posting, what Remy said. The only think I see CC getting out of this is an increase in folks who get turned off by obvious asses interjecting the CC name in klutzy ways almost certain to anger smart creative types.
posted by mediareport at 9:55 AM on May 1, 2005

CC does dominate the blog world, and seems to be doing fine without these guys. But if the idea is to develop the CC licensing system outside its Web bailiwick (e.g. persuading more composers, authors and film producers to CC-license their creations), then maybe there's some use to the partnership.

I'm trying to imagine how this would work, though: Your drummer tells you hey let's CC-license our song? Your colleague in your creative writing group whispers in your ear: Did you know you can CC-license your novel? Hmm.

The danger here is that if BzzAgent really does have such a bad buzz online, CC risks alienating at least part of the base of supporters behind its rapid growth.
posted by enakaja at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2005

On the one hand, I don't see anything wrong with the growth of the Creative Commons license, in the sense that perhaps more people will contribute to it (on preview, like what enakaja said). I tend to see it as a positive thing, even though the whole buzz marketing thing is... well, weird.

Personally, I've found myself advertising things that I like just because I like them. But most of the time those things are ideas. And most of the time I'm not marketing, I'm naturally conversing. The initiative comes from me, and not from a marketing agency.

I can see how the "un-real" or "artificial" word-of-mouth is disliked. Besides growth factors, how will it affect the CC license?
posted by Tlahtolli at 10:22 AM on May 1, 2005

You lie down with dogs...
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:40 AM on May 1, 2005

Wow. This absolutely blows. I can't believe the Bzz guy's response at Corante. He's talking out his ass.
posted by dobbs at 10:51 AM on May 1, 2005

Whazzzup! I use CREATIVE COMMINS™ everday to fight teh Man! And so do all the other kewl kidz!

We're a-blogin' and a-joggin' and a-bumpin' and a-groovin' to new ideas on copywright -- because copy-"right" can be copy-"wrong"!

My BzzKit ™ on Creative Commins™ is a little eggy-heady if you're scannin' on my freq, my freaks, and you ain't gonna read all that small-print no more'en I, so I'll boil down what's in there for all you hep catz. Basically, you see somethin' you be wantin', you can just take it off the web or e-Donkey or BearShare, and if your put "copyrite © 2005 Creative Commins" on it, you can use it for free with no hassles from Old Joe Law. Yeah, it's that easy-peasy, Weezy! Just slap on the C-C, and it's yours to do as you please-please. Yeah, it's all kool in skool if U ain't no fool!

So that's my Buzzzzz, my cuzz -- slap on Creative Commins™ and you avoid the fuzz!

eWord up! Back at-cha! Now git down and tell your friends, and come back 2-morrow at this same Bat-time to this same Bat-channel kidz for more of the Bzz you luvzzz. We'll be talkin' ans squakin' 'bout how all the coolest dudes and dudettes drink Pepsi Blue™ when purchasing their Genuine GM Parts™!
posted by orthogonality at 11:18 AM on May 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

This "pro bono" work is an attempt by BzzAgent to improve their rightly terrible public image. Unfortunately, they're sliming the lily-white reputation of Creative Commons in the process.

And I may be an elitist snob, but no one can convince me that someone who signs up to be a "BzzAgent" hangs out in crowds that care about copyright law.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:18 AM on May 1, 2005

I think 4easypayments nails it. Who benefits the most from this partnership? My guess - it's the Buzz.
posted by Staggering Jack at 11:29 AM on May 1, 2005

Is It Buzz or Merely the Noise of a Pest?
The word-of-mouth marketing industry is creating its own buzz—and it's not all good.
[Newsweek | April 18, 2005].
posted by ericb at 11:31 AM on May 1, 2005

orthogonality has a very promising future in advertising - dammit.
posted by wendell at 11:32 AM on May 1, 2005

I think it's understandable for an activist organization to jump at the idea of free press, as mathowie touched on. So, we can forgive them for hopping on board with BzzAgent.

The important part isn't that they signed up, it's what they'll do now that they know how their audience feels about it.
posted by Jairus at 11:33 AM on May 1, 2005

Oh ... and from the BzzAgent website:

"BzzAgent is a founding member of [Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA)]....[an] industry-based group dedicated to building a strong discipline around Word-of-Mouth."
posted by ericb at 11:33 AM on May 1, 2005

Orthogonality...I think I love you. :)
posted by dejah420 at 11:36 AM on May 1, 2005

To: Mr. Dave Balter,
Chief "Bee-Keeper",
BzzAgent LLC


Please see from the following url, that I have successfully "spread the Bzz" about Creative Commins (whatever that is) on the site.

As your site indicates that is a "C+ 18-34, B+ 35-50, not male-skewed, upper-middle income bracket demographic", I understand that posting Bzz there is worth 18 "Honey" points, bringing my total "Pollinization Points" to the "Hivemind-licious" level.

I look forward to continuing to work for you to "synergistically harness the zeitgeist to expand product familiarity into key hard-to-reach and skeptical demographics" by publicizing the re-launch of Pepsi Blue tomorrow.

As per our "Independent Worker-Bee Contractor" agreement I would like to redeem my Points for the "eXtreme Sk8-bord", reward #7543 as shown on your site.

Yours sincerely,
Worker-Bee #49723
posted by orthogonality at 11:43 AM on May 1, 2005

"BzzAgent is a founding member of [Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA)]....[an] industry-based group dedicated to building a strong discipline around Word-of-Mouth."

The first draft -"dedicated to seizing the zeitgeist and raping it into submission"- was much punchier, IMHO.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:47 AM on May 1, 2005

Oh my! This is a post by a BzzAgent employee on their company blog:
"wow. what a weekend for BzzAgent in the blogosphere.

seems like one thing, though... i dunno, but it seems that people are missing the fact that BzzAgent/CC-related online awareness and the public level awareness are different crowds. they barely at all overlap or interact. the blog crowd that's getting all into this are a small, almost metaphysically-grounded group of online self-prescribed critics and curious progressives. the crowd that comprises the BzzAgents is mostly the 'real' world - people walking around and buying cakes and having birthday parties, singing the traditional happy birthday song that AOL owns the copyright for, who accept the terms of the world that they are given. that's the impression i get when i read BzzReports."
posted by ericb at 11:52 AM on May 1, 2005

Metafilter: an almost metaphysically-grounded group of online self-prescribed critics and curious progressives.
posted by ericb at 11:54 AM on May 1, 2005

BzzAgents: people walking around and buying cakes and having birthday parties.
posted by ericb at 11:55 AM on May 1, 2005

And we only get pancakes!
posted by ericb at 11:56 AM on May 1, 2005

How do organisations such as Creative Commons manage to make such awful decisions? Marketing can be fine, but using a service that encourages shills is just plain awful. A terrible let-down.
posted by digiboy at 1:32 PM on May 1, 2005

[this is bad]

[but the Chocolate Extreme Blizzard (with extra Heath bits) from Dairy Queen that I just ate was good]
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 1:41 PM on May 1, 2005

Unless those promoting CC through BzzAgent are going to release their own content via CC, any word-of-mouth advertising is going to be as transparently false as - well - BzzAgent's newfound support for CC, while having "all rights reserved" notices all over their website. The irony is, if they had a clue they could have gotten much better publicity simply by releasing their own advertising under CC licenses and waiting for the inevitable post on BoingBoing.
posted by scottreynen at 2:25 PM on May 1, 2005

orthogonality fucking WINS, TWICE.
posted by 40 Watt at 2:34 PM on May 1, 2005

Oh jesus.

Please, Matt. Please, somehow, get the higher-ups to sever this partnership. I'll still use creative commons, but I'll feel kind of sick doing it.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:44 PM on May 1, 2005

"Lawrence Lessig asks for your thoughts about the BzzAgent alliance on his blog, after the issue got picked up by MetaFilter. I've given him mine, and I encourage you to give him yours." - Suw Charman at Corante
posted by ericb at 3:11 PM on May 1, 2005

Getting marketing people on board = good.

Getting these marketing people on board = bad.
posted by flashboy at 3:25 PM on May 1, 2005

What's the fuss, Gus?

All you online self-appointed critics and curious progressives just don't get modern marketing. I think getting Out the Bzz ™is a an "Uncommonly Creative" ™ best-of-breed interactive re-purposing of the under-utilized mindshare of next-generation Change Agents.

My only complaint is that other out of the loop synergistic paradigm shifting methodologies are not being embraced by Creative Commons.

Creative Commons offers eleven different licenses with egg-head names like "Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa)" and "CC-GNU LGPL".

BORING!!! Who even knows what it means, and only fat nerds with glasses talk that way. Let's give Creative Commons a rad new look with rad new license names, and synergistically open up new marketing avenues for selected companies will maximizing Creative Commons's revenue potential

I suggest the following changes to License names:
  • "Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd)" ==> The "Reach out and touch someone™ AT&T™ License"
  • "Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa)" ==> The "Burger King™ Have it Your Way™ License"
  • "Attribution Non-commercial (by-nc)" ==> The "Just Do It™ Nike™ License"
  • "Attribution Share Alike (by-sa)" ==> The "It's everywhere you want to be.™ Visa™ License"
  • "Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd)" ==> The "Where do you want to go today?”™ Microsoft™ License"
  • "Attribution (by)" ==> The "Drivers wanted™ Volkswagen™ License"
Don't think of it as "selling out", think of it as selling in!
posted by orthogonality at 3:29 PM on May 1, 2005

orthogonality - you're on a roll today! Loving it!
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on May 1, 2005

And how about some "Global Awareness Paradigms," and "Market Consciousness Philosophies," and "Creative Product Re-development Support." [Huh? - We Do Stuff!]
posted by ericb at 3:41 PM on May 1, 2005

ericb writes " orthogonality - you're on a roll today! Loving it!"

Remember to show your support if you enjoy orthogonality's™ comments by linking to orthogonality™. The more links to me, the easier for me to find you to tell you about the great new books I didn't actually read, the licenses I don't actually use, and the Creative Lies™ I tell as when marketing to you in guise of a disinterested friend.

Coming soon to AskMefi: "Why is Budweiser Light the King of Beers When a Unique Snowsflake Like You Parties with Your Young, Hip, Slim and With-It MeFi Friends?"
posted by orthogonality at 3:59 PM on May 1, 2005

How do organisations such as Creative Commons manage to make such awful decisions?

That sure is the question of the moment. Can't wait to find out which "higher up" at CC actually *recommended* BzzAgent. It's just bizarre that an organization as sharp as CC could be so gullible as to post a description of these liars taken straight out of their promotional copy:

The marketing campaign is a network of volunteer brand evangelists who share their honest opinions about products and services with other consumers. The Bzz agents are regular joes like you and me who bzzz (or promote) different campaigns.

If there are really people at CC who are that clueless about the sleaziness of "regular joes" getting paid to talk up certain brands of vodka at neighborhood bars, then it seems to me the damage to CC's reputation has already been done. Ending the agreement is the fucking least CC can do to begin to repair that damage.
posted by mediareport at 4:08 PM on May 1, 2005

Dave Balter (Founder, President, BzzAgent) posts on Lawrence Lessig's blog.
posted by ericb at 5:12 PM on May 1, 2005

"As a marketer, I’m angry at the fact that I’ve learned to filter out 95% of the 3,000 ads I see each day. " - Dave Balter

As a consumer, I'm proud of the fact that I've learned to filter out 95% of the 3,000 ads I see each day.
posted by ericb at 5:15 PM on May 1, 2005

In the future, we will have to learn to filter out 95% of the recommendations that our "friends" offer us.
posted by jacknose at 5:21 PM on May 1, 2005

jacknose writes "In the future, we will have to learn to filter out 95% of the recommendations that our 'friends' offer us."

What are "friends" and where do I buy them?

("In the future" -- isn't that how that ad for automatically darkening prescription lenses starts off? Was that a bit of subliminal marketing?)
posted by orthogonality at 5:25 PM on May 1, 2005

Transition LensesTM
posted by ericb at 5:35 PM on May 1, 2005

FriendsTM for sale!
posted by ericb at 5:39 PM on May 1, 2005

ericb writes "Dave Balter (Founder, President, BzzAgent) posts on Lawrence Lessig's blog."

I think Number Six™ put Dr. Baltar™ up to it.

Of course I'm talking about the compelling dark and excellent re-make of Battlestar Galactica™.

(Not to be confused with the "Dark and Lovely™" line of hair care products for African-America women, which leaves my hair relaxed enough to pass.)
posted by orthogonality at 5:47 PM on May 1, 2005

orthogonality is a today's certified wonderchicken Hero For The Day™! Tell your friends!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:47 PM on May 1, 2005

The big advantage to this is that it can reach people who aren't online. Most people who are online do already know about Creative Commons, and a lot of them use it (although everything I write here while I should be working is a work-for-hire).
I think this comes down to the fact that most people, and people on the web in particular, have a strong (and justifiable) antipathy to all marketing, so the notion of any marketting campaign run for something like CC raises a huge amount of ire.
But really, what is the harm? How will Creative Commons be "tarnished" by association with the hivemind? Will people who would have otherwise used CC licensing suddenly revert to "all rights reserved"? Unlikely. Will people who don't usually think about things like p2p, open source or public domain gain an increased awareness about copyright law? Yeah, I think that's likely? even if it's just the agents who are supposed to be shilling these things.
Creative Commons is an important shift in the copyright paradigm (despite "paradigm" being devalued by marketting-speak). Getting people to consider that who hadn't been exposed previously is certainly worth letting Bzzagent benefit from the name of CC.
Or what, are Bzzagents King Midas in reverse? They can't do anything good because of their business model? I think that's a bit simplistic. Someone can, you know, actually enjoy products made by giant corporations without being corrupt and souless shills. And I don't see the harm in using selection bias to increase recognition of CC within the BA company.
(I think that Ortho's posts are hilarious, but I don't think that the antipathy is truly warranted here. But hey, I think that Reebok actually makes some decent running shoes, so what do I know?)
posted by klangklangston at 7:04 AM on May 2, 2005

so the notion of any marketting campaign run for something like CC raises a huge amount of ire

Huh? Where are you getting that? Go back and read flashboy's comment. I'd be happy to help brainstorm marketing strategies to spread the word about CC. But pairing with this kind of stealth marketing company is a ridiculously bad fit. The commercialization of social space is *precisely* the problem Creative Commons was created to fight. Btw, for those who aren't reading the Lessig thread, this link from a New Hampshire paper is interesting:

Deep in an article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, we learned that the Monitor, and perhaps you, had unwittingly been buzzed by Jason Desjardins of Bradford, one of the company's most successful buzz agents. Desjardins wrote two brief reviews of books he received from BzzAgent. He submitted them in response to the Monitor's standing invitation to readers to send us brief comments about books they had read. We published them.

By telephone yesterday, Desjardins said the reviews of Across the Nightingale Floor and The Five Patterns of Extra-ordinary Careers reflected his honest opinion and he had no intent to deceive us or our readers. He did not realize that reputable newspapers would not knowingly publish anything that was part of an advertising campaign without saying so.

posted by mediareport at 7:16 AM on May 2, 2005

The big advantage to this is that it can reach people who aren't online.

And are the people who aren't online worthy of targeting? In the United States, for example..."[as of] March 21 [,2005] - 136 million American adults now use the internet. That is 67% of those 18 and older." [Pew Internet & American Life Project | March 30, 2005].

And what of the tactics employed by BzzAgent? Some of us deem them to be unethical and on par with those of a government administration paying journalists for positive reporting. For some of us the antipathy is indded warranted.
posted by ericb at 7:22 AM on May 2, 2005

My trust is fragile, people!
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:37 AM on May 2, 2005


CC Licensing seems pretty straightforward. At its core, it's really just branding of a particular boilerplate legal agreement.

I can see where people don't like the Bzz/CC partnership at all, but it's not like your CC licensed Linux window manager will magically transmogrify into a closed-source Windows 98 program DRM.
posted by verb at 7:54 AM on May 2, 2005

This definitely hurts my opinion of CC, and I suspect it does the same for many other people. It makes me question their overall motivations...

So it seems to me that BzzAgent's participation is having the exact opposite effect that they promise.

This is a horrible decision by CC, because they could probably get more positive exposure by launching their own grassroots campaign by their various users/employees/friends. Now any campaign will look suspect, and the word might get out that any good 'buzz' you hear about CC is just corporate marketing dreck. This will hurt CC more then it will help, I believe.
posted by chaz at 9:55 AM on May 2, 2005

klangklangston, to respond directly to you, it's not that BzzAgent is inherently evil, it's just that it's pretty transparent that their goal is to improve their own public image, not Creatice Commons'. It just doesn't seem like the right fit for an operation who builds its strength through integrity and straight-forwardness. It's just not a good fit.

Their business model is not in my mind suspect and there are plenty of companies who need this kind of assistance in the marketplace. However, CC simply doesn't fit into that mold, in my opinion, and can only be damaged by the association.
posted by chaz at 9:58 AM on May 2, 2005

BzzAgent's ethically dubious tactics seem to be in keeping with similar practices:
"Corey Greenberg, tech editor for NBC's 'Today' show... received payments from Apple as well as Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Seiko Epson, Creative Technology and Energizer Holdings, charging $15,000 apiece to talk up their products on news shows. The contracts were first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal....James Oppenheim, technology editor for Child magazine, has also appeared on 'Today' and a number of local news shows, trumpeting products made by his clients. These include Microsoft, Radio Shack, Atari, Mattel, LeapFrog Enterprises and Kodak, for a fee of $12,500 for each media tour, the Journal said." [Washington Post | April 19, 2005]
posted by ericb at 11:05 AM on May 2, 2005

Well said:
"Equivalency (?) Between Ketchum And BzzAgenta href="">Armstrong Williams and Ketchum (well commented on here). BzzAgent.

Any difference?

Both situations have an individual being compensated (or having the potential to be compensated) for talking about something. Both situations have a behind-the-scenes intermediary (Ketchum in the former, BzzAgent in the latter) that is itself compensated to have individuals start a conversation. These conversations take place in situations where the other parties in the conversation would typically feel that the commentator is speaking from the heart, and not as part of a part of a program (or under contract). In both cases, the others in the conversation feel duped afterwards, upon learning that an interaction that seemed genuine was actually staged and part of a program of payola." [The Social Customer Manifesto | May 2, 2005]
posted by ericb at 4:42 PM on May 2, 2005

Armstrong Williams and Ketchum (well commented on here). BzzAgent.

Any difference? ...
posted by ericb at 4:48 PM on May 2, 2005

Suw Charman accepts Dave Balter's apology; suggests he "murder...[his]...darlings".
posted by ericb at 5:59 PM on May 2, 2005

Except that the BzzAgents are supposed to disclose their affiliations.
I dunno. I work as an entertainment journalist, and I'm pretty good at evaluating my sources critically. I mean, I get albums sent to me all the time by PR firms, who really want me to believe that these are the best albums ever in the history of everything. And sometimes they're good, more often they're bad. I work with publicists who I can trust, who know what I like, and I don't mind that they're shilling their bands. And that they're getting paid to. It's really no big deal, because I can still decide that the album is crappy. And I know that a lot of the people I work with will only sign on to promote something if they personally feel that it's worth it. Granted, often my taste and theirs is very different, but I can respect the work that they're doing.
That's why I've really got no problem with CC being promoted like this. It's a) not something that I'm paying for (part of the reason Armstrong Williams was so fucked up). It's b) something that I like and that I agree with (Creative Commons, that is).
Further, having just signed up a fake account at BzzAgent to see how it was being promoted, it's really not anything evil. Their main pitch is "imagine if you could get music, movies and books, all for free, and change them however you'd like..." (which, granted, only works with some Creative Commons licensing).
As far as the suggestion upthread that CC should have tapped other people to do grassworks marketting for them, well, no one's stoppin' you, chief. I know that I'm gonna mention this dustup to the intellectual property wonks at my poker game and get their opinions. I suppose that I could even get "Klang Klangston" reward points for it (though I really have no abiding interest in the BzzAgent protocol, as a) it seems too cultish and b) I don't like their insistence on using their own marketting bullshit language when dealing with everything. But hey, that's my choice).
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on May 3, 2005

Update: BzzAgent and Creative Commons part ways.
posted by ericb at 11:10 AM on May 5, 2005

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