Angie McKaig - E-Business Consultant and Entrepreneur
running an ethical ad business2006.09.14
How do you run an ethical, (partly) ad-driven business?
Here's my feeling on advertising: particularly in the print world but also online, a whole LOT of it is way overpriced. Sure, the costs may be in line with what it costs the publisher, but as an advertiser, do I care about this? Oh hell no. I care about one thing, and one thing only: is the cost of the ad equal to the benefit I will get from it?
I've seen this problem crop up particularly recently in the pet biz. New web sites sporting $50 CPM ad runs as the base price. Print mags wanting $1200+ for 1/4 page color ads, on a circ of 50K. Unmonitored click-through rates through some advertisers as low as 0.25 or lower. Print publishers offering a "free" $200 banner on their site in addition to your overpriced print spot, even though they get pitifully low visitor rates because, hey, they're a magazine and they've never developed their web site to be anything.
But you know, even if you could take those prices and foibles in stride, it doesn't even address the biggest problem, which is ethics.
In my opinion, a whole big LOT of the companies who accept advertising lie outright or fugde one hell of a lot of the truth in their rate cards, media kits and emails.
Here are two of the fudges I've run across just recently:
1. Demographics in a rate card for a web site that hasn't launched yet. And damned impressive ones, considering the site doesn't have an audience yet.
2. An email from a publisher stating that every copy of their magazine is read by 50 people. 50 PEOPLE. Can we say overinflated?
The bottom line is this: I'm surrounded by competitors who are are incredibly good at making themselves out to be more than they are. Most of the advertising public (at least in this industry) doesn't have the knowledge of advertising to read between the lines and call bullshit when they see it. They buy the pitch. They spend their hard earned ad dollars. They get less than impressive results because they got fed a line of crock and now they're leery of believing that any advertising might actually help them.
Especially advertising priced damned fairly because the publisher is more interested in running an ethical business that actually helps advertisers than screwing them over in the name of the almighty buck.
My theory has always been this, and it's usually been successful: if you actually work with your advertisers, if you price and create ad types that will help their business and then make sure they know how to best take advantage of it, if you treat people ethically and with honesty then they will come to you. You'll make it work financially because you'll get more folks advertising with you, and the numbers will make up for what you'd "lose" by not having overinflated prices.
And this theory has worked so far, but I'll be honest - I worry about the future viability of that mandate. Seems that sometimes being slimier, less direct, and more about the pitch than the follow through, actually wins out.
It's tough. There are times when I feel like the righteous, earnest young politician with fantastic ideas on how to govern up against the smarmy, well pitched old timer who has fanfare and incredible pull quotes but couldn't govern his way out of a paper bag. Sure, the earnest kid should get the shot, but when one party isn't playing it straight to begin with, how do you win?
How do you win when out of the two of you, you're the only one being honest & upfront?