McCann Sydney Is Doing Blogging: Why This Tweaks My Radar

June 23, 2010

Saw these ads on Problogger Jobs today (and yes, I read Problogger Jobs once every week or two: competitive intelligence 😉 )

Seeking Australian mum bloggers to write about what they love to write about
Freelance SEO-aware online copywriters, Sydney
Head content angler (suit editor, sub-editor), Sydney

All the jobs are for blog(s) coming out of McCann Worldgroup, a Sydney based “advertising, marketing and communications agency.”

It naturally tweaked my radar: what’s a marketing firm doing creating blogs.

This paragraph in particular caused the radar blip (emphasis is mine):

“We’re currently on the lookout for Australian mums (with kids under 10) who can write their socks off. We’re working with a variety of large companies on building great content-rich websites, many of which will focus on mums.

Now this isn’t a publishing company, this is a advertising, marketing and communications agency, a company that would normally place ads on other sites, not create sites, at least the sort they are proposing here.

So I turned to Twitter, and in particular to Laurel Papworth for a radar check. The thought was “am I reading too much into this?”

Twitter / Duncan Riley: @SilkCharm what do you mak ...

A little later Mark Pollard, the Strategy Director and McCann Sydney responds.

Twitter / Mark Pollard: @duncanriley @SilkCharm W ...

I responded in terms of the description of the site: note McCann states that they are “working with a variety of large companies on building great content-rich websites.” That line suggests that the sites are being made for the companies, not the sites being made for the inventory to sell to (one would presume) advertisers.

Twitter / Duncan Riley: @markpollard should PR age ...

But apparently this doesn’t raise any alarm with Pollard, which in itself is interesting. I originally asked Laurel what she thought of it because I was looking to see both sides (and Laurel has a fine radar for these things), but the other side seems to be lost on Pollard.

Twitter / Mark Pollard: @duncanriley I don't under ...

Ah yes, putting “real names” to blog posts negates any relationship between the content they are writing, and the advertisers the site(s) have been set up for.

Sounds a little bit epic fail to me.

I could well be wrong, and if Pollard would like to share the editorial guidelines with me that show that there will be a clear separation between editorial and advertisers, I’ll cop that my radar is wrong.

Thing is: so far it doesn’t read that way.

Perhaps it’s not astroturfing, but we know what happened in the United States when the line between advertising and content blurred, don’t we.

Argue away in the comments, and try to convince me otherwise: as I last said to Pollard on Twitter:

Twitter / Duncan Riley: @markpollard I'm sure your ...

And I mean that sincerely. But getting defensive in replies on what is a genuine interest in the ethical issues that could come into play here doesn’t endear confidence.

6 responses to McCann Sydney Is Doing Blogging: Why This Tweaks My Radar

  1. I've had the same response from @markpollard ages ago. When he gave Twitter education for free, I pointed out was good hunting grounds for clients (and in fairness, I can't afford to give this kind of lecture away for free marketing, but McCann can) he got very defensive, said it was just to help the community. I believe I used the term disingenuous. I still think he is…
    … but
    … but the reason he gets upset is because unlike maybe some other big companies he genuinely wants to use McCann resources to help bloggers and communities and not just promotional shite either.
    But I think disingenuous stands – it's naive to think that others won't see this as a ploy to create commercial relationships with “free” bloggers where none existed before.
    It was only a matter of time before agencies started scooping up blogger communities as .. hmm not focus groups but something more modern than that? … and let's just hope these content creators go to a good home 🙂

  2. Hi Duncan

    I invite the scepticism but please make it informed scepticism!

    I'm more than happy to debate this but the issue is you don't actually know what we currently do, what our values are or what we intend to do so your points are based purely on speculation.

    A criticism of your approach – not you as a person.

    I want to be clear about a few things:
    – we're not looking for people to ghost-write about our clients' products
    – they'd be writing about their personal experiences
    – they'd put their names to it
    – the people we're talking to will get paid
    – we'll be as transparent and authentic as possible

    In other words, they're effectively writers getting paid to write about stuff they like… but their writing would get published on a website owned by a brand. Just like other websites. Yes, the brands will appear on the websites, yes there may be ads on some of these websites but this sort of approach doesn't work if it's fake.

    I'm more than happy to talk to you about this if you're curious.

    A throwaway point, but I've been involved with communities my entire adult life – community events, publishing, radio. I cherish what communities can do together – and I'm excited about trying to bring these values into a commercial environment without bastardising them. That's the aim.


  3. There has been an increase in companies (PR/ marketing and advertising genre) who are looking for bloggers who already have a blog in a niche topic. They want to pay them to publish regularly. I am sure the content will be approved by the PR company pretty heavily versus a real, authentic post. What was interesting to me was that they are not just asking for one paid post but to take over the blog and turn the blogger into little more than a social media manager posting corporate content. Yet, the blogger would be still paying their own hosting, domain and etc fees so the blog could still look unbiased versus paid content.

  4. “By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing… kill yourself.

    No, no, no it's just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they'll take root – I don't know. You try, you do what you can. Kill yourself.

    Seriously though, if you are, do.

    Aaah, no really, there's no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan's little helpers. Okay – kill yourself – seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously. No this is not a joke, you're going, “there's going to be a joke coming,” there's no fucking joke coming. You are Satan's spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us. Kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fucking soul, kill yourself.

    Planting seeds. I know all the marketing people are going, “he's doing a joke…” there's no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tail-pipe, fucking hang yourself, borrow a gun from a Yank friend – I don't care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil fucking makinations. Machi… Whatever, you know what I mean.

    I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now too, “Oh, you know what Bill's doing, he's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market, he's very smart.”

    Oh man, I am not doing that. You fucking evil scumbags!

    “Ooh, you know what Bill's doing now, he's going for the righteous indignation dollar. That's a big dollar. A lot of people are feeling that indignation. We've done research – huge market. He's doing a good thing.”

    Godammit, I'm not doing that, you scum-bags! Quit putting a godamm dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!

    “Ooh, the anger dollar. Huge. Huge in times of recession. Giant market, Bill's very bright to do that.”

    God, I'm just caught in a fucking web.

    “Ooh the trapped dollar, big dollar, huge dollar. Good market – look at our research. We see that many people feel trapped. If we play to that and then separate them into the trapped dollar…”

    How do you live like that? And I bet you sleep like fucking babies at night, don't you?

    “What didya do today honey?”

    “Oh, we made ah, we made ah arsenic a childhood food now, goodnight.” [snores] “Yeah we just said you know is your baby really too loud? You know?” [snores] “Yeah, you know the mums will love it.” [snores]

    Sleep like fucking children, don't ya, this is your world isn't it? “

    -The late great Bill Hicks

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