On fancy lunches, and Church vs. State

by Smartie on April 12, 2010

Have you ever had a meeting with the advertising sales people of a publication? I have. And as someone who deals with the editorial side daily, sitting across from an ad sales rep is kind of mind-blowing.

If you are talking about signing a fairly lucrative contract, they usually take you out for lunch. A fancy lunch. A big fancy lunch. With drinks. And that right there is a novelty. Editorial doesn’t get an awesome expense account.

If you have an ad sales person who is good at their job, the sales pitch is magnificent.

Their readership is huge.

Their readership is wealthy.

Their readership is educated.

Their readership is discerning.

Their readership is culturally aware.

Who doesn’t want to reach that readership, right! Hell, I want to be their readership!

Then they talk about how your business is a perfect fit for their readers. It makes complete sense that you spend a significant amount of money in their publication annually to reach these smart, culturally savvy, wealthy readers that are a perfect fit!

Now here’s the reason why PR often doesn’t get invited to these lunches:

“Wow, if you think your readers would be this interested in our stuff, how come we don’t get a whole lot of editorial?”

Do I know how to stop a party or what!

Often, the biggest non-coverage excuse from editorial is “that’s not what our readers are looking for.” And for certain things, they aren’t off base at all.

(I once worked personal PR for an actor on a pretty edgy indie film. One of the female leads was an older, somewhat well known actress. The contracted firm doing PR for the film–a large company at that–was canned for pitching her to some monthly mags that skewed older. It was not the film’s audience. So in this case, it wasn’t a demographic fit.)

However, if you are having a fancy lunch, talking about how right the publication’s audience is for your venture, and you can have access to that audience for Big Dollar Amounts annually, I don’t think it’s a stretch to ask why their editorial department feels differently.

Which side is right about what their audience wants? Does editorial really know? Or does advertising?

The question is then non-answered with the canned “Church and State” response. The amount spent on advertising in a publication has absolutely no bearing on editorial outcome.

And I get that. But that’s not my question.

Either their audience does not really match our audience and therefore we are throwing a lot of money away annually by spending our ad dollars there. Or, their editorial department is not really keeping their audience’s interest in mind when deciding what they will cover.

This is where it’s really hard to keep Church and State separate.

On the one hand, editorial coverage should not be dictated by how much money is spent on advertising because that skews the playing field in favor of those with big budgets.

But there’s always the other hand… If the audience is not right for editorial, why is there this disconnect on the ad side? Well, to bring money into the publication! That is, afterall, what they pay that person to do!

But, before dropping 100k or more annually, I think it’s a very fair question to ask. And I think it would be nice to get an honest response.

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