Misdirected Barter Finds ad:tech in a Pickle Barrel
Lest anyone accuse us of ignoring negative publicity about a company we're in bed with (which we very much are when it comes to ad:tech), it's our duty to let you know about a little pay for play snafu ad:tech found itself in when it offered "key influencers" free or discounted access to its New York conference in exchange for three pieces of media coverage. The media coverage could take the form of a blog post, a Tweet or a mention on Facebook.
An email was sent to a list of bloggers detailing the offer including suggested topics bloggers could mention and why they might be a fan of the conference itself.
Conferences invite press and bloggers to events all the time. There's nothing wrong with that. Conference organizers do this hoping the invited will write about the conference's content and share it with their readers.
The mistake ad:tech made was to caveat the offer. In other words, you can only come for free/at a discount if you promise to give publicity.
As Joe Ciarallo wrote on PRNewser, "It's one thing to send this [the email offer] to marketing contacts at companies who may be interested in a sponsorship agreement of some sorts. It's another to send it to journalists and bloggers who likely would be given free entrance anyway, and then ask them for coverage."
ad:tech is a great conference. The people who work at ad:tech are great people. The individual behind this promotion is a wonderful person. But this was ill-conceived and wrong. It just breaks too many rules, old and new.
ad:tech has since apologized. Everyone involved has learned from this. By the time we've all consumed our first drink at the first ad:tech party, this will be nothing but a bad memory.