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1 in 5 Senior Marketers Buy Ads for Illicit Online News Love

Come on, Junior,
everybody does it

Pondering whether advertising has corrupted contemporary editors, Ogilvy & Mather's David Ogilvy once quipped, "The vast majority of editors are incorruptible."

Unless he was joking, it would appear that's becoming less true. Nearly one in five (19 percent) of senior marketers admit their organizations bought ads on a news site in exchange for a news story, according to a survey by Millward Brown for PRWeek and Manning Selvage & Lee, a subsidiary of Publicis Groupe.


Better yet, 10 percent of senior marketers say their companies enjoy a non-verbal agreement with journalists or editors for which, in exchange for buying ad space, they can expect favorable coverage of their products or brands.

252 United States-based chief marketing officers, VPs of marketing and marketing directors were polled for the sixth annual Marketing Management Survey, which tracks the pulse of marketing ethics — and perhaps its erosion — in digital media.

The rate of marketers that admit to having such an "understanding" with news providers rose from last year, when only 17 percent of senior marketers admitted to buying advertising for a news story. In '07, only seven percent said their companies had nonverbal agreements with reporters or editors. And five percent said they or their firms either paid for or gave editors gifts in exchange for a news story.

"Any kind of undisclosed paid placement spells trouble for consumers, the media and the marketing industry," said worldwide CEO Mark Hass of Manning Selvage & Lee.

"Without full disclosure and transparency, media lose credibility and their value as an unbiased source of information for consumers. That a substantial number of marketers … engage in 'pay-for-play' year after year is even more troubling, and that much more damaging to the credibility of news media."

Companies like PayPerPost, which helps fund bloggers that advocate certain companies in their posts, helped raise ire last year over so-called "pay-for-play" coverage. And late last year, Google cast its vote on one side of the argument. After a change in its algorithm, a number of bloggers participating in PayPerPost's program saw their PageRanks reduced to near-obsolescence.


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