E-letter: Peer expertise

A presenter at a recent seminar came right out and said it. He said anybody that buys an ad page in a magazine should expect a page of editorial as “value-added.” Then he topped it off by claiming his method is “an industry standard.” For one thing, I am sure you know by now that “value-added” always means value subtracted from your bottom line, as I will illustrate. For another, it’s just plain wrong.

The real standard, as defined by the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, says, “’Advertising’ and ‘advertisement(s)’ are defined as any message (other than those excluded from the application of this Code), the content of which message is controlled directly or indirectly by the advertiser expressed in any language and communicated in any medium (except those listed under Exclusions) to Canadians with the intent to influence their choice, opinion or behaviour.”

Kerry Knudsen

Clearly, this means that any page of “editorial” that is part of an ad sale automatically becomes an ad, so there is no “editorial.” It’s two pages of advertising for the price of one, and one of the pages is an outright insult to the customers. That is, it’s an attempt to deceive them into thinking they are reading a feature story, when, in fact it’s an ad.

Beyond that, in public relations agencies – many of whom also violate their own published standards – get paid a premium for inserting favourable stories into focused media. The going rate for such disguised ads is currently about 4.5 times the rate of a comparable page of advertising.

Let’s say a page of advertising in a magazine costs $4,000. If an agency is successful in inserting a page of advertiser-controlled editorial into the magazine, the value would be $18,000 for the fake story, in addition to the $4,000 for the ad, or $22,000.

Note, however, that the seminar presenter said you should expect the $18,000 page for free. This means somebody is dealing with a magazine publisher that is not only dishonest, but also remarkably unbrilliant.

I’m not in a mood today to reveal the presenter’s name. Let it be sufficient to say he is a known figure in the Canadian secondary wood sector and old enough to know better. I have offered him a chance to provide me with a copy of his claimed “standard.” Predictably, he has elected to hide. There is no such standard.

I am going to call this example willful ignorance, since I have pointed out these standards to him before, and I have published them many times. The larger point is that this type of willful ignorance has the effect of dumbing down the industry and making us accept that which is not acceptable. And costing us money.

For just one example, look at our inability to find suitable labour pools. I can guarantee you that if Wood Industry put together a real public relations program designed to raise the acceptability of skilled labour as a career choice, we would get results. The problem is that our willfully ignorant associates block every effort to move the sector into a more professional profile. A proper program costs money and time, but a proper one works. I would ask our industry seminar presenter how his “program” of demanding free stories works, but I can’t find that he has ever actually walked the talk. As with my request for standards, I have asked for an example and heard nothing.

 

Like every good thing, standards can be perverted. In current use, it is common for standards to be used as a bar to competition, much like a theatre ticket or wrist band. “If you belong to our club,” the message says, “you can play.” However, standards exist to protect society. In the case of journalism, advertising and PR, the standards are largely ignored because speech is protected, and there is little to be done about abusers. As has been true for at least the last 12 years, you can see a list of media-standards’ links on our website. For kicks, see if you can find the one that says, “Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.” It’s right under the one that says, “Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.”

Our industry needs protection and it needs communication. Are you aware there is a new hacking venture that attacks your local wifi? It’s called KRAK WPA2, and is the first direct attack on local wifis in over 16 years.

Our cybersecurity sources tell us that hacking is unavoidable. “Hackers see every domain as a challenge,” he says. “Their state of mind is that a domain is like a house, and the only house that cannot be broken into is the one that has not yet been built. Every other one has a way to get in.” Scary, eh? Just right for Halloween.

 

Also 16 years ago, the Canadian wood industry met in a roundtable to discuss issues of concern to the overall sector. In that meeting, as is now common knowledge, manufacturers were complaining that integration into digital production was being misrepresented by the sales side of the software industry, and that costs of implementation were at least three times the original cost of the software. Now, it appears the cost of digitization may be even higher if it opens gateways into your company that you cannot see or control.

In a nutshell, this is the rationale behind our upcoming Manufacturers’ Roundtable, to be held during WMS on November 4 at 9:00 a.m. just north of the International Centre, and just off Airport Rd. Wood Industry has resources in law, banking, cyber security, safety, labour and other critical areas of importance. We believe this resource depth is unparalleled in any other media. Unfortunately, most media’s resource lists go no deeper than their ad contacts.

Further, we believe that moderating a closed, face-to-face forum among just manufacturers is one way for us to see where and when those resources can be applied, while at the same time providing a platform for businessmen to teach and learn from each other.

The wood industry in Canada needs a broader voice, and we all know why, with our marketing and other “experts” so much in the bag with phony standards and inexact training. In our view, if you want to see an expert at manufacturing, your best view is of yourself and your peers. In fact, there is a case to be made that the 75 attendees at the Manufacturers’ Roundtable will be the leading voices in the industry, simply by the fact of making the effort to participate.

As noted in the September issue of Wood Industry, this will be your event. Seating is limited. The only non-manufacturer in attendance will be me, as moderator, only, and I won’t report outside the room what is discussed.

There are a number of our suppliers that want this effort to succeed, and have agreed to be sponsors. Those that have signed up so far are listed in the adjoining ad. In addition, Wood Industry and the sponsors have teamed up to provide a “loot bag,” to recognize the event. For those of you that have attended our events in the past, you know this is significant. We wouldn’t mention it, since it sounds like “baiting,” but it’s a fact and it’s relevant – the vast majority of your advertisers want the industry to communicate and grow without pressure from heavy-handed, non-manufacturing parties. There is no cost to you.

To register, please send an email to la4k@wi4mediainc.ca, but delete the 4s. If I don’t stick those in there, some of those snarky software bots will badger her to death.

We need to know….

 

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