Ethical Dilemma on Advertising

I was approached recently by an unnamed company to do some advertising on Most Valuable Network. After several days of haggling, we decided to do one month at a slightly reduced price to allow the company to gauge whether or not they wanted to lock into a long-term plan, which is what we had been hagging about in the first place – the price for the long-term plan.

The plan is about to end, and they really want to continue advertising on MVN but are not happy with the results. While they are getting plenty of “clicks” they are not getting any sign-ups to their website. They wanted me to either (a) run a contest where they can get free money on their account if they sign up for it, or (b) post articles written by them on one of our more well-known sites.

They had been sending me these articles for some time now and kept asking me to put it up, but I kept saying no. When this information came to light that they needed some extra incentive to re-up our advertising package, they asked again about posting articles, and I decided it was time to explain to them why I was refusing to post articles written by them. Here is what I said:

We will not be putting up any of your columns, nor will we ever, even if it was negotiated in the advertising to do so. We are not a company who puts up advertising opinions of companies. Our entire principle is to have sports fans write their opinions on their favorite teams, untarnished by those career journalists who just mail it in or stir the pot up simply to have something to talk about. Putting your content on the fantasy football page would not only spark immediate uproar and cause the writers of that page to quit, but it violates everything we stand for. Advertisers will never be allowed to put content on a page other than a text link, description, or image/animated ad. ESPN does not put advertising company articles on their website, and neither do I. I cannot think of a good reason why any company would. An individual blog? Yes, to generate cash. But a journalistic enterprise? That violates everything that a journalist holds dear.

Much to my surprise, my contact at that company wholeheartedly agreed, apologized for asking, and said it was the company’s policy to always try to ask for more than they should get. We agreed to run a contest, so I’ll be giving it some advertising publicity soon.

Nonetheless, I found it a bit frustrating and comical that an advertising company would presume to think a journalistic enterprise would allow an advertiser’s article to be published on the website in exchange for cash. Do you think the Boston Globe would let Verizon submit an article to the front page of the Globe simply because Verizon would pay the Globe?

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One thought on “Ethical Dilemma on Advertising

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