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Microsoft Taps PR Firm To Thwart Google

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Google’s proposed purchase of DoubleClick earned it an invitation to a Senate subcommittee hearing this week. Microsoft’s work with PR firm Burson-Marsteller could have helped print that invite.

Microsoft Taps PR Firm To Thwart Google
Microsoft Taps PR Firm To Thwart Google

Skullduggery in the form of a whispering campaign against Google, carried out by Burson-Marsteller on Microsoft’s, called for media organizations and Internet firms to sign up at www.i-comp.org.

The Wall Street Journal said these pitches asked companies in Europe to sign an online petition for a “transparent and competitive Internet.” In a humorous twist, visiting the i-comp.org site shows how much “transparency” is being offered; the site cannot be accessed without a login and password.

Confronted with the claims backed by written pitches the Journal obtained, as well as reporting by The Observer in the UK, Microsoft owned up to its role:

Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans said Microsoft is a client of Burson’s and is a “founding member” of the group directing companies to i-comp.org. “We’ve been very clear that we were going to work to promote an industry dialogue about issues affecting the online-advertising market,” he said. “It’s no secret that Microsoft has concerns about the market-concentration impact that this proposed Google merger would have.”

Microsoft wasn’t quite as forthcoming in those pitches about its involvement. Solicitations sent on its behalf by Burson-Marsteller did not note Microsoft had backed the campaign.

According to The Observer, i-comp.org stands for Initiative for Competitive Online Marketplaces. Burson-Marsteller director Jonathan Dinkeldein admitted the group had been formed by Microsoft.

One would think Microsoft had learned from the PR debacles Wal-Mart suffered when it tried to quietly back some pro-company online initiatives. Although there seem to be legitimate reasons to question Google’s proposed DoubleClick buy, Microsoft probably didn’t need to help things along this way.

Microsoft Taps PR Firm To Thwart Google
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