Friday, January 22, 2010

Why the Supreme Court Decision on Corporate Campaign Spending is Bad for Media and Advertising

Yesterday the Supreme Court gave Corporations full freedom of speech rights by ruling they can spend unlimited monies on advertising positive or negative that support their positions. Even though it was never part of the discussion it will be a boon then a bane for Media Companies and Advertising Companies and even Brands which I will discuss.

One of the issues regarding 'ethics' that I struggle with for accessing 'free' content has it's roots with the decision to create a new Media Format way back when called Television. Somehow the revenue metrics for Television allowed content to be viewed for free by consumers supported by Advertising. But it was not a contract with the consumers. Nothing forced consumers to view a commercial. We can switch channels, leave the room etc. So this created a true 'opt-in' relationship with consumers. This has been the root of most of today's troubles for Media Companies aside from the Movie Industry.

Until 2 years ago I was not in Advertising. I was very happy to use FireFox with Ad Blocking and No Scripts Ad-Ons so I see pretty much ZERO digital Advertising. And while I valued Advertising-Media it was a Love-Hate relationship because the industries can be evil in pursuit of profits, such as the marketing of cigarettes to children. I also witnessed the demised of most quality content on the major networks so that in 1999 when High Speed Internet came out I canceled cable for DSL and stopped watching TV altogether. Why pay good money to receive crap in my living room.

After entering the Ad Biz I started thinking about the ethics of accessing content and blocking all the Ads. And while I am a champion for paying directly for content in return for not seeing Ads until this becomes a reality what am I supposed to do? So I have 'unblocked' the Ad Blocker from specific Web Sites that I enjoy free content from out of a sense of Ethics and Honor. But since the Media-Advertising Industry doesn't force people to view advertising I refuse to unblock all websites. Sorry. Earn my eyeball time.

But now things might become different. With the Supreme Court ruling, at first Media Companies and Ad Agencies will benefit from increased Ad Spend for political advertising. In some cases this could be dramatic. As of today the Insurance Industry can buy up all the Ad Time and pitch lies about Healthcare reform because nothing in the Ruling Requires Truth! And they can hide behind Special Interest Entities which make it impossible to know who is paying for the Ads. This will dramatically increase people's negative feelings towards Media and Advertising and eventually turn people off. They might start TiVoing everything just to remove commercials from their lives.

Case in point during the Kerry - Bush election I was in Ohio and Florida for business and couldn't watch TV because every other commercial was an attack ad against one or the other candidate. I had to give up Sports Center! Now it is going to get worse.

So if a Media Company is willing to take money from groups with Nefarious Purposes (meaning they do not require transparency), then my view of Ethics changes and maybe I shouldn't feel obligated to unblock websites from Ad Blocking. Maybe I will be more ok with eliminating commercials from my life for good?

This will be interesting to see how this unfolds. But as the first case in point. Yesterday my local paper had a full page Ad from a mysterious group with no website, just a gmail address attacking a Democratic Senator over the GOP win in Massachusetts. Was this paid for by Insurance Companies? A Right Wing Religious Group? Who knows. But I am punishing the paper for the lack of transparency and not for the content. So for the next 30 days I am reading the paper online and blocking all Ads.

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