|Scott Donaton, editor of 'Advertising Age.'|
This year, it might consider a parade of marketing executives doing the perp walk -- heads down, hands behind their backs.
Unethical and scandalous behavior
OK, so it's not likely we'll see an advertising heavyweight bunking next to Martha any time soon. But lately there's a disturbingly frequent (and seemingly endless) drip-drip of stories detailing unethical, scandalous and questionable behavior on the part of media and marketing companies. And it's drawing unwelcome attention from noisy consumer advocates, dreaded regulators and the courts.
Consider just these events, all piled within days of each other:
Seriously, people, there's a problem here.
Violation of trust
With each violation of trust, advertisers and the media are rapidly losing whatever credibility they have left. At this rate, it won't take long for them to completely burn their bridges to consumers. People will just assume they're being lied to, and a good part of the time they may be right.
Empowered consumers are no longer as reliant on media reports and ad claims for their information. They're already skeptical of even formerly untouchable news brands such as 60 Minutes and The New York Times, and the Internet gives them easy access to peer reviews and insights, and independent data sources.
Honesty and transparency
What's the ad industry to do? Certainly, it can't turn to its image specialists; PR agencies are spinning out of control alongside ad agencies, marketers and content providers, as the VNR and Armstrong Williams scandals show. The only real solution: Cut the crap, and deal honestly and transparently with consumers. They're not morons (not even in the red states).
Courage would also be nice. In almost all of these cases, you can bet someone somewhere along the line knew that whatever was being planned wasn't a good idea, but they didn't stand up and say something. Marketing and media executives need to stop protecting their own backsides and muster the guts to call a bad idea a bad idea -- before a judge or government official does it for them.