One in Five Marketers Bought Ads in Return for News Coverage

July 31, 2008

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Nearly 19% of senior marketers say their organizations have bought advertising in return for a news story, despite growing criticism of such “pay-for-play” practices, according to a survey from PRWeek and Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L), conducted by Millward Brown.


The sixth annual Marketing Management Survey polled 252 US chief marketing officers, VPs of marketing, and marketing directors and managers about digital media and marketing ethics.

This year’s results are consistent with data from previous years. Last year, for example, 17% of senior marketers said their organizations bought advertising in return for news stories.

Additional findings:

  • 10% of senior marketers said their organizations have had an implicit or non-verbal agreement with a reporter or editor that anticipated favorable coverage of their company or products in exchange for advertising (vs. 7% last year).
  • 8% of respondents, or one in 12, said their organizations paid or provided a gift of value to an editor or producer to place a news story about their company or one of its products (vs. 5% last year).

Asked whether the marketing industry as a whole is following ethical guidelines in new media more than they did a year ago, 53% of the survey respondents said no.

“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. “Without full disclosure and transparency, media lose credibility and their value as an unbiased source of information for consumers.”

The issue of paid placements in news media raises serious implications for the marketing industry, especially in the online world, according to the survey’s sponsors. “The online world creates a whole new unsettling platform for marketers who are willing to engage unethically,” said Hass.

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