By now, you’d think the major PR firms, the ones staffed by the crème de la crème, that snag the biggest, most prestigious accounts, would have learned that you can’t get away with a campaign premised on hiding the identity of the client.
Doing so is regarded as unethical by everyone you’re trying to persuade. Disclosure–which is almost inevitable–has a disproportionately negative effect, and the client risks being left in a worse position than if they’d done nothing.
But “nothing” of course means “no fees for you.” So instead of giving clients a real-world expectation of the dangers of a super-secret stealth campaign in an era of relentless transparency, agencies push bad ideas that get them paid.
Burson-Marsteller has apparently spent the past few years paying no attention to their own industry. And Microsoft’s amnesia is truly incredible for a company that sells “memory.” Get a load of this from the UK Observer:
Microsoft is at the centre of an embarrassing row over an attempt by a lobby firm strongly linked with the Seattle computer giant to rally opposition against rival Google’s proposed acqusition of internet marketing firm DoubleClick.
The Observer has seen an email sent by a director at leading lobby firm Burson-Marsteller to a number of top UK businesses. The email urges board members to raise the issue of Google’s dominance of search engines with politicians, regulators and the media.
The email asks companies to join a new organisation – Initiative for Competitive Online Marketplaces – which in the next few weeks will make a series of announcements on Google, internet privacy and copyright.
The email’s author is Jonathan Dinkeldein, a director of B-M. He admitted the firm was working with Microsoft on the initiative. A spokeswoman for Microsoft agreed that the firm has an ‘ongoing relationship with Burson-Marsteller’ but said it is not lobbying for Microsoft.
Relations between Microsoft and Google are fraught and the development comes at a sensitive time. Concern over Google’s dominance in online advertising prompted the US federal trade commission to probe its £1.56bn takeover of DoubleClick. Google itself asked the European Commision to investigate the takeover.
Microsoft has objected to the tie-up on the grounds that it will combine the two largest advertising distributors on the internet.
It lost in the auction for DoubleClick.
When asked about the email, Dinkeldein admited the organisation was formed by Microsoft. Dinkeldein added that his initiative attracted several orgnanisations to join it.
But executives contacted by The Observer told of their disquiet at being ‘cold-called’ in this manner. The emails included newspaper articles from the Financial Times and the Economist which some executives were concerned broke copyright rules. Others suggested that by not disclosing who Burson-Marsteller was representing, the firm was breaking the spirit of political lobby firms’ code of conduct. Continue reading