This Sleazy Pitch Embodies The Worst Side Of Online Advertising

Click image to read the full e-mail from the marketing company.

Click image to read the full e-mail from the marketing company.

Every day, our inboxes are slammed with laughably bad PR pitches that range from the unrelated — “tell your readers to check out our booth at the International Fly Fishing Film Festival” — to the hyperbolic — “this tip-figuring calculator app will literally change the way you dine out!” We don’t share these with you because, well… they’re just awful. But we recently received one that was both insidious and all-too-indicative of the ways in which marketers dangle money in front of blogs in order to get them to deliver on-message content.

The message, from the “Community Director” of some marketing company, (click image above to read the full thing) was basically a pitch trying to convince us to apply to be a low-paid shill for one of the brands this agency claims to represent.

“Our process allows brands to humanize their marketing efforts by connecting shoppers with the brands and retailers used in daily life by introducing them to new and existing products,” reads the e-mail. “We create opportunities for social influencers to partner with industry leading brands by weaving the product/retailer into their current conversation and compensate them for doing so.”

The letter gives the example of an alleged upcoming campaign for Target and Rubbermaid that challenges men to organize their garages, etc., presumably using Rubbermaid products.

It’s just like those segments on every reality TV competition where brands are “integrated” into the show — cook dinner with these Walmart steaks, drive around Munich in these Ford cars while toting an actual Travelocity gnome in the backseat.

And it’s everything that is wrong with advertising today, blurring the boundary between sponsored content and actual content, turning entertainment into advertising, attempting to shove talking points and branding messages down consumers’ throats at every turn.

We’ve written before about the many ways in which advertisers try to pay websites for sponsored content and the various methods those sites use to either make it obvious — or obscure — whether or not that content is bought and paid for.

The sorts of campaigns being pitched by this marketing company are even lower on that totem pole, as they want the blogger to provide the content in a way that convince readers/viewers that it’s truly legitimate and should be believed.

Beyond the question of ethics, the amounts that these companies pay to bloggers is usually fractions of a penny compared to what they would spend to have their branding reach the same number of eyeballs via traditional routes, so the bloggers that bite on this carrot are selling themselves short.

“Each blogger engaged in a campaign is able to share an individual and creative experience about the product/retailer in a way that will resonate with their readers on a personal level, while still providing a call to action,” continues the e-mail, presumably written by someone who still manages to sleep at night and occasionally look at himself in the mirror. “With each new campaign, we give bloggers the opportunity to shop for and interact with the brand so you may have a hands on experience, which in turn will add to the authenticity of the post. You will never be asked to write about a product you haven’t had the chance to experience.”

Well thank goodness they would never ask you to write about something you haven’t had the chance to experience yet! That would be misleading and wrong (and potentially illegal).

But we guess that giving people money and free stuff under the expectation that they will write nice things isn’t at all deceitful or unethical, so show us the money!

The one thing that has made me reluctant to post about this e-mail is that some folks might try to apply after coming to the realization that potentially lying to consumers for a few bucks falls right into their ethical wheelhouse. That’s why we’re redacting the company name, as it doesn’t deserve any free publicity, even if it is negative.

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