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IPG Links Up With BzzAgent

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NEW YORK Interpublic Group said it has entered a partnership with BzzAgent for its agencies to use that firm's word-of-mouth services and conduct research in the area.

Several IPG shops, including Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, DraftFCB and Universal McCann, already use BzzAgent for various clients. The Boston-based company has more than 300,000 "agents" who are given product samples, asked for feedback and encouraged to talk about them with their friends.

Marketers are reawakening to the power of word of mouth in product decisions. Several studies have shown that recommendations from others rank higher than traditional ad messages in swaying consumer preferences. The rise of social media has led to the development of several buzz-monitoring services for brands to determine what is being said about them.

The next step, according to Bant Breen, president of IPG's Futures Marketing Group, is turning insights into action.

"There are a variety of ways to get involved in the conversation," he said. "BzzAgent has one of the interesting ways. I don't know if we can say one company has cracked the code."

Yet at the same time, many consumers are wary of commercial interests distorting recommendations. A Burson-Marsteller survey released this week found nearly 30 percent of influential consumers felt commercial activity on opinion sites is a big problem.

The IPG-BzzAgent partnership is similar to agreements struck with TiVo and Joost. The Futures Marketing Group has also made a small investment in Facebook and Spot Runner, and houses search marketing shop Reprise Media, which IPG bought in April. IPG has not invested in BzzAgent. The agreement will give IPG preferential pricing, the companies said, and will be managed through IPG's Emerging Media Lab.