Check it out. No sugar coating this.
19% of top marketers admit to having bought advertising in publications in return for favorable coverage. That’s about 1 in 5.
10% of senior marketers have developed implicit agreements with editors or reporters to get favorable coverage. That’s about 1 in 10.
8% have admitted to having their company give a gift to an editor or a producer to get a favorable story placed in a publication or program. That’s about 1 in 12.
That’s from a study conducted by Millward Brown on behalf of PRWeek and PR giant Manning Selvage & Lee. And the study is one that’s consistent with previous ones. I’ve tried calling Millward Brown and MSL about this and have left voice mails. Since I don’t have any clue when I’ll hear back I wanted to write about this anyway.
We won’t know if these figures are accurate – or actually LOWER that reality. That’s because some ad people won’t own up to doing this.
We’re not going to find out which marketers are the ones that are paying to get stories placed for ad placements. Surveys like this don’t (and shouldn’t) reveal the identities. But this leads to why people are cynical about advertising. Or, if not cynical, then outright hostile. And the marketers – meaning media buyers – will deny this to protect their or their client’s brands.
We won’t see this get broad coverage in the media because, well, the media doesn’t want to cover something that will make their industry look bad and hurt their credibility. And no one is paying them to run this story.
We won’t see many PR firms complain about this because many PR firms are tied into the ad agencies that do this. Or they share the same client and won’t want to cause their client to have bad press.
We’ll just see more of the same. Because it works and it’s easy to do. From the press release:
Marketers and advertisers often say they view this type of activity as an extension of product placement in entertainment, no different than featuring a car in an action movie or a movie star drinking from a particular brand of soda. But with those programs, the stories are fictional, and their purpose is to entertain.
Marketers and advertisers know the difference. They’re lying. Period. They know it. I know it. You know it.
Marketing efforts in the online world are subject to the same rules of disclosure and transparency that consumers expect with traditional news media. But despite widespread criticism of online ethical breaches such as creating fake blogs and cloaking bloggers’ identities, there is little indication that marketers plan to stop trying to engage with consumers in these ways. When asked whether the marketing industry as a whole is following ethical guidelines in new media more than they did a year ago, 53 percent of the survey respondents said no.
Yeah, well, we’ll see this start to be blamed on online publications because they’ll be easier to go after. There’s probably less two way loyalty between ad rep and publisher. We’ll be told that this is the “new ethics” of today’s online pubs.
There’s some truth to that, but the greater truth is that these are offline problems. And I expect to see it increase as both print editors and publishers see less and less of ad dollars going to them (so they’ll change the rules) and ad reps push for this to prove greater ROI for their cost-conscious ad budget cutting clients.