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by: Sigurd Rinde

According to Business Week, here, Toyota approached at least three major magazine companies to explore product integration – product placement as it goes.

As expected it made a few scratch their heads – "We’ll sell our mothers, but this doesn’t work" as one magazine executive puts it.

I tend to agree with the skeptics.

Marketing and advertising as we know them are all about push, one way, controlled message. Massaging such into being article-embedded could only be termed as… eh… sneaky.

But there are alternatives that might work if you start with the basics:

No more marketing department, no more push, no more controlled message – just simple include-and-involve-the-customer, damned the consequences. (I’ve said it already.)

Involving the customer would require a few things – complete and utter transparency of course, bandwidth beyond a mere corporate web site, a critical author (communicator) with credibility and visibility, and knowledge on his/her part.

Transparency and attitude is up to the company. The rest a magazine could supply. Or a good blogger.

  • Give the magazine (or blogger) complete and unfiltered access, let go of any notion of controlling the information.
  • Forget the whole idea of delivering a ‘message’. (Did that do away with the marketing department?)
  • Add comment/discussion possibilities.
  • As with any supplier, trust them completely or move on. It will be their call, when, what, how. Trust that mutual respect will keep things on an even keel and that truth is the guidance.
  • If they write something negative, accept that as true and fix the reason for the criticism. Immediately and visibly.

That could work.

This is where Robert Scoble operates (in-house variant).

This is where Hugh‘s blogvertising would come in (outsourced variant).

The blog having the edge on magazines when it comes to keeping the discussion open and two-way. Including the customer in the process at the company in question, giving the blogger a free hand to bat around the firm and its products, and its ideas, and its doings.

Now that would be a lesser evil than "selling their mothers". That would give the magazine/blog better access to the raw data needed to make good news. (Hey, many are writing about companies anyway.)

And let the corporation pay for the bandwidth and professional knowledge that converts daily mundane going-ons into readable and news-worthy posts and articles. Nothing is better than having a fresh eye looking over your shoulder I say, nothing is better than stirring up a good discussion, nothing is better than real-life tests of your ideas. So much more valuable than stupid advertising.

That could work.

If only the corporations have the guts.

If only the corporate marketing departments were willing to make themselves redundant.

[P.s.: Of course ‘being paid’ makes for less than good journalism, dependency on the source etc.. Absolutely, but what journalist is not dependent on access to sources, something that would make him treat the source with respect whoever or whatever they are? If the journalist’s client (the corporation) cannot face truth delivered with respect, dump him. Without credibility the journalist/blogger would be less valuable to the client anyway.]