I was reading an article today in an online version of a newspaper that details the creation of the Institute for Advertising Ethics at the University of Missouri Journalism School (the USA’s oldest and perhaps most highly regarded journalism school). And I noticed an item that really upsets me… And a backhanded acknoledgement of the Performance Marketing industry as well.
Margaret Duffy, a former ad executive who now teaches at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and is helping to organize the ethics institute is quoted in the article as saying that advertising persuasion can be done in an “Ethical and Tasteful” way. But the sentence containing this quote is what I have an issue with. Here it is:
But even though the industry’s fundamental purpose is to convince shoppers to buy a product they may not actually need, such persuasion can be done in an “ethical and tasteful” way, she added.
Now I don’t know if the context is from the writer at the Associated Press, or from Ms Duffy. But it’s dead flat out wrong. The fundamental purpose of advertising is to help shoppers find and buy products that fulfill their needs. The shopper may not know they need it. The shopper may be seeking out a solution to a problem. The shopper may purchase items simply because they perceive the need even though they don’t really need it. But convincing shoppers to buy products they neither need (or want) puts our industry in the worst possible light for no good reason.
I don’t know anyone in this industry that purposely tries to elicit purchases from people who don’t need or want their products. It’s too much work, too little profit, too high cost, and would damage the brand if they did so. I know plenty of people in the industry that believe in the products they promote, provide the best information they have to help consumers make the choice to buy these products.
If I suddenly started promoting a useless eBook claiming to teach you how to successfully use a left handed monkey wrench with your right hand and found a way to convince you that you really needed to buy it… Would you (after buying it) every purchase something from me again? No, I didn’t think so. Which is the point.
If you look at highly successful Performance Marketing Affiliates your not going to see them promoting bad products. It would sully their name, destroy trust in them and their sites, and hurt their bottom line. Just the same as you only promoting products that are good for your audience. Provide a solution to your followers potential problems. Fit their lifestyles, etc. You simply make more money and build a loyal base of people who will buy from you again and again.
The interesting thing about Performance Marketing in the article is it did recognize (backhandedly) a portion of our industry. The scam diet, and “make money now” portion. Not a huge win. But at least a part of our industry is being recognized as part of the overall advertising community.
Now to get on with the real work. Leading by example and showing the AP Writers and Journalism School Faculty that their impression of our industry is just simply wrong.