I've never forgotten the story because I was there when it happened. It involves advertising and its role in business. Back when it occurred, marketing and advertising people weren't quite as "sophisticated" as they are today. Computers and trendy software weren't around, and most of the people I knew not only believed in advertising but understood how it worked. It was a simpler time without so many distractions.
Quite a few years ago I was the national sales director for one of the leading association medical journals in this country. The publication carried loads of pharmaceutical advertising. One company in particular would run three or four expensive, full-color ads in each weekly issue. But trouble lurked around the corner. The association that published the journal had a committee of pharmacologists who soon were to publish a guide on prescription drugs for physicians advising them on which drugs work best for patients with certain conditions.
When the compendium was released I received one of the first copies, and much to my horror this advertiser's products didn't receive good reviews. The ad director of that company was hard-nosed and had a reputation for having a short temper. But I knew I had to call him first before he heard the bad news from someone else. I told him what had occurred and what the compendium mentioned about his company's products. Then I just held my breath waiting for his reaction. I was sure he would cancel all his advertising as a punitive measure against the journal. When he asked me how many advertising pages his company was running in each issue, I expected the worst. But was I wrong. He then told me that he planned to double the number of pages in each issue because he believed the committee had erred in its assessment of his company's products. And he said there was no better way to educate practicing physicians than by informing them through ads that "accurately" explained the benefits of his company's drugs.
Many years later that advertising manager became chairman of the company, which today is one of the worldwide pharmaceutical giants. He has since retired, but I've never forgotten the wisdom he passed on to me about advertising. He told me a page of advertising was the one thing a company could control in any magazine or journal to tell its side of the story on a regular basis. He also told me that counting on any publication to give a company favorable and consistent editorial mention just wasn't being realistic.
That has stuck with me all these years because it makes so much sense. I think too many people in the advertising business today try to blend advertising with editorial, when one has nothing to do with the other. Advertising in any publication is a guest in the house. If used properly it's a powerful marketing tool. Sure, advertising pays the bills for most publications. Yes, it can be expensive, but expecting editors to run puff pieces about a company simply because it's a big advertiser isn't what any first-rate magazine would do. That's unethical and foolish because readers expect impartial and above-board coverage of the news that affects their industry. If they think the deck is stacked, they bail out fast.
Consequently, if you believe a publication truly reaches the audience you want to sell, certainly do everything you can to educate its editors about your company. Most editors are quite willing to listen to any organization that seeks an audience with them and brings news and information that would be useful to their readers. But don't expect favorable treatment just because you're an advertiser. That isn't what gets the job done. It's a lot of things, most of all whether whatever you're doing or selling is of interest to their audience.Put your best foot forward,Charles S. Lauer