This is the point at which I confess that I once increased an IO on the back of some fancy lunch..sorry not going to do that because I know I have not, but in fact that is too simple an example. There is no black and white, just grey.
The recent Digiday post about a planner in the US writing to multiple publishers asking for them to buy food and drinks for a leaving do, click here for that, sparked some conversation on this topic which came from both sides of the fence. The long and short of it was that the request was outrageous and what a cheek this guy had. In this instance they were right in my mind to be offended, what went wrong with this particular request was it lacked respect, lacked a reason and was delivered to a group ie anyone will do.
That said, where did this all start? Did it start with the agency asking for free things or was it always the approach of the sales person, lets not just focus on media, this happens in every industry to some extent or another. In every industry the opportunity to build relations has started with hospitality. Now what this story does not tell you is how many of the recipients had previously showered this team with gifts and so lead them to believe this was all possible. And if they did? And if they helped their business, can they now have issue with the request being thrown back at them. Grey throughout.
Generally speaking hospitality is a legitimate way of doing business because we are a people business and the more time we spend together the more we understand each other and then more likely the business gets their message across. People buy people at the end of the day. BUT and a big but, it should not lead to obligation and where friendship becomes darker and things are twisted to personal financial gain. The level of that hospitality also needs examination – I believe the person who offers should always be present ie don’t just get me tickets but take me. I also believe that situations where couples and families are being hosted on ski trips etc pushes the boundary.
I saw an email once, intercepted by an agency person (who was on the exchange accidentally and not involved) between a re-targeting company and a direct client that basically said ‘thanks for the contact introduction, your camera is in the post’ That kind of thing should not be allowed to go on, or a now defunct agency whose Head of media gave the search business for an account to his friend’s independent search agency and by all accounts was paid well for it. This is the dark side of the business and hopefully a smaller and smaller part of it.
The final side of this is when a publisher or tech company is asked to sponsor an event which can come in many ways but its is a clear value exchange and they are ‘paying’ to be part of that event, again that could be food, drink, prizes etc etc but the relationship is clear.
This episode in particular was unfortunate and ill thought through and that person needs to be clear on what is acceptable and what is not but to publishers and media companies this is a cost of business and with all business there are people who do it well or badly. Written entirely differently the media owner could legitimately decide that it was a good opportunity to be in front of 90 media buyers and that is a business decision for them.
Big Sales orgs are spending $30million+ a year on marketing and so they have accounted for the 90 bacon butties, what they had not accounted for was the way the guy asked for them.
Anyone meet me in Pret and grab me a cheese and ham sub?