AMA gets it wrong in an ethically questionable way

Since I recently joined the American Marketing Association, I am now getting their e-newsletter. One of the entries in the latest edition caught my eye:

News: Internet Key to Influencing the Influencers
The Internet plays a crucial role in shaping social influencers’ opinions, according to a recent study, which found that online advertising is these individuals’ primary source for researching purchases. The results underscore the medium’s potential for generating positive word of mouth.


Let’s get this out of the way straight away – this is patently and completely false. According to both the AMA article and the actual study, Web ads were ranked number two. Last I checked, number two didn’t equal "primary".

Secondly, this study was conducted by DoubleClick, a business based on online advertising. Was there any impropriety in the survey itself? Probably not in an unethical way, but let’s consider the source for a second. They are likely finding their respondents from online advertising. They are a business who has a vested interest in making sure the survey results come out in their favor. I simply don’t believe that this is an unbiased and impartial survey.

I can understand DoubleClick’s motivations, whether I find value in their results or not. What troubles me the most here is that the American Marketing Association, a professional organization meant to help build and expand their members skillset, has basically lied to their members as a means of driving traffic to their site. They’ve completely ignored the research validity issues of a major ad network finding results that ads are fantastic.

Let’s take a peek at the AMA Mission Statement to see how this issue stacks up:

The American Marketing Association is a professional association for individuals and organizations involved in the practice, teaching and study of marketing worldwide. Our principal roles are:

  • Improving – Advancing marketing competencies, practice and thought leadership.
  • Promoting – Being an advocate for marketing and promoting its importance, efficacy and ethics.
  • Supporting – Being an essential resource for marketing information, education/training and relationships.

I see a lot of good points, especially the ethics point. So I headed over to their Statement of Ethics. This point, in particular, stuck out to me.

2.  Marketers must foster trust in the marketing system.

I completely agree with this, and wonder where the trust fostering is here.

Maybe this was an honest mistake by a single person, but I get the feeling that this is more indictive of how the industry is reacting to a ground swell of change they’re mostly ill-prepared for.

Here’s my take-away from this survey: When asked the question "How did you further learn about the product you purchased?", 63% of the response had nothing to do with traditional marketing/advertisting.

Why not point that out, versus simply promoting the status quo (right or wrong)?