What Price Ethics in the Advertising Agency World?

Digiday tells us that ad networks are sending old sneakers to media planners, offering them a new pair in exchange for a meeting. Other sales professionals have jumped in on the thread but the interesting piece that grabbed my attention was:

I recently offered to take a team at a major agency to a ballgame, and they asked if they could instead go shopping at a specific apparel store. At first, I was a little put off, thinking they were rude for making such a request. But after thinking about it, I decided to just make the most of it. I spent an average of $125 per client (eight in total). The tickets to this game would have run $100 each (so $1,000 with mine and my boss’s included). We actually got off cheaper, made the client happy and closed the business.

Its an interesting point but it makes the whole vendor/buyer relationship in ad sales seem so…transactional. I would baulk at being sent a pair of kicks in exchange for setting up a meeting or being invited on a shopping trip for, well, anything as a way for a rep to get a foot in the door. I prefer the chance to build a relationship with someone – to break bread, to swap stories, to get to know the person and the product. Help ME understand what YOUR product can really do and EDUCATE me whether it is a fit for my clients and the problems they are trying to solve.

And it goes both ways. For my clients, rather than sending gifts, its far better to meet with them and discuss their views, philosophies, hopes and dreams. To aspire to become, as David Maister said, a Trusted Advisor.

Caveat: Like the rest of Omnicom, I’ve taken the “combatting bribery” online course and so am immune to such advances. Send no old sneakers, please.


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