Peter Rojas, founder of Engadget and Gizmodo, and co-founder of gdgt, knows more than a little about social media and marketing. So, when he got an email from American Express’ ad agency offering an “exclusive relationship” with Amex’s new Zync card, he asked for more info — and learned that what Amex really wanted was for him to “give them advice and insight … and then to wrap it all up I get to pimp out all my closest friends.”
Rojas had done some consulting for Amex in the past, so he was willing to listen to the pitch from ad agency Ogilvy. But when he found out what they were actually asking him to do, he shot back:
[B]asically the deal is that in exchange for the “privilege” of signing up for the Zync card I get to give AmEx free consulting (because paying me would make me lie to them, apparently) and then host a party where I can market the Zync card to my “network”.
So let me get this straight: I get to sign up for a product where they make money (in terms of card fees), where I give them advice and insight that AmEx used to think was worth paying for (but now is not because that would make me dishonest), and then to wrap it all up I get to pimp out all my closest friends? I can’t believe AmEx would be stupid enough to give Ogilvy money for this program, I hope they convinced them to accept payment in Zync card accounts and tweet-ups.
Rojas points out that it’s not Amex’s unwillingness to consider paying him for his time that he finds disturbing, but that the company is offering him a “very one-sided arrangement where one side seems be asking for a lot and not delivering any discernible value in return.”
His post includes the full email Ogilvy sent him, which is a classic of pseudo-hip marketing talk, starting from its description of Zync as “the new American Express Charge card for 20somethings. This card is created for 20somethings by 20somethings that is all about customization.”