One Fifth Of Marketers Buy Advertising For News Coverage

    July 31, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

One in five senior American marketers polled said they had bought advertising in return for a news story about their company or product, according to a survey sponsored by PRWeek and Manning Selvage & Lee.

The Marketing Management Survey, conducted annually in May, polled 252 chief marketing officers, VPs of marketing, marketing directors and managers about digital media and marketing ethics.

Mark Hass
Mark Hass

Ten percent said they had an implicit/nonverbal agreement with a reporter or editor for favorable coverage of their company or product in return for buying advertising. One in 12 provided valuable gifts in exchange for coverage.

“Any kind of undisclosed paid placement spells trouble for consumers, the media and the marketing industry,” said Mark Hass, worldwide chief executive officer of MS&L.

During this advent of new media, marketers didn’t exhibit much faith in the system getting much better. The resulting ire directed at fake blogs and fictional authors, for example, haven’t changed much. The number of senior marketers admitting to pay-per-play schemes is actually up two percent from last year and over half (53%) this year don’t see ethical standards improving any time soon.

“The online world creates a whole new unsettling platform for marketers who are willing to engage unethically,” said Hass. 

Consumers in general (begrudgingly) tolerate product placement in entertainment content like movies or television shows with the understanding such arrangements help pay for otherwise cost-prohibitive productions. But most would draw the line when it comes to news coverage where they expect at least ethical disclosure, if not complete objectivity.

But more and more those ethical lines are becoming blurred. Not too long after the DVD release of The Onion Movie, where a traditional television news anchor has to cope with the new conglomerate owner’s battery powered bunny drumming across his news desk, life began imitating art. Local Fox News affiliates began placing McDonalds iced coffee drinks in front of them, recently, with ice that won’t melt under production lights.