November 08, 2007

A Matter of Honor: Advertisers Respond II

From Tony Jewell, media contact for Astrazeneca, via email:

Good afternoon and thank you for giving us a chance to respond to your concerns.

We last bought an advertisement in The New Republic in late May, though they ran a free ad as part of a promotion last month. We currently have no plans to advertise in The New Republic for the foreseeable future.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 8, 2007 07:35 PM

So Astrazeneca decided months ago (well before May, give the lead times involved in buying print advertising) to stop advertising in the TNR because they weren't getting a good return on their advertising dollars... and this is connected to your crusade, how?

In other words, you're still batting .000 in getting advertisers to stop advertising because of the Beauchamp matter.

Posted by: steve sturm at November 9, 2007 09:36 AM


It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt.

Posted by: C-C-G at November 9, 2007 10:02 AM

Well Steve, perhaps Astrazeneca could plan on buying some ads and back out to make you happy?

I've provided my feedback to several advertisers, specifically Ford, BP, HBO and FedEx. We've switched our purchases from BP to the pumps across the street up in Omaha (driving 100 miles a day, I buy quite a bit of diesel fuel). Is it fair to the local retailer? Not really, but he choose to trust the BP franchise.

We let Ford (website and the local dealer in Plattsmouth NE we buy from) know the wife's car gets replaced in December-January timeframe. Having just bought a $50K F-350 in August, we were planning on a Ford Escape for her but will go Honda if they don't get it together. I canceled HBO on the Dish as well since they haven't made up their minds, but can't give TNR full credit as HBO's programming really hasn't been up to it for us.

Do people actually make decisions on what publications advertisers support? As I explained to my son after an exceptionally lousy experience at Menards last weekend, in this hyper-competitive retail market, retailers cannot afford to disregard attention to their customers without jeopardizing their market, profits and ultimately their jobs. If Menards pisses you off, you walk next door to Home Depot and drop a couple thousand bucks on windows there instead.

It's easy to do, and you can leverage your decisions at work too. A great example is FedEx. I've switched all my shipping at home and at work to UPS for now. There's no real cost to me and my leverage at work makes the decision more significant. Replacing MetLife will be harder for many to deal with, but we have our annual insurance coverage election/changes in 3 weeks at work, so I can drop them and switch at that time if I want to. Does Metlife want to lose a healthy young family that doesn't draw on their profits?

As long as there are sufficient alternatives, it's very easy to punish corporations who are irresponsible with their ad buys. You'd think most of these executives studied the Tylenol case study in grad school (showing how to quickly respond and protect the corporate reputation), but apparently very few seem to understand reputational risk management.

Posted by: redherkey at November 9, 2007 10:05 AM
So Astrazeneca decided months ago (well before May, give the lead times involved in buying print advertising) to stop advertising in the TNR because they weren't getting a good return on their advertising dollars...

Is there part of that email response written in invisotext? Because I don't see anything about their level of return in what's posted. What are you seeing, steve? Does it exist outside of your imagination?

Posted by: Pablo at November 9, 2007 12:26 PM

Bob is doing a great job. The truth always comes out in the end, and the longer people have to wait for it, the worse the fabricators become.

TNR is flailing. More pressure is necessary and sooner or later, they will be forced to come clean.

Posted by: Dogstar at November 9, 2007 02:36 PM

Well, what I get from this response is that TNR is giving away its advertising for free -- oh, I'm sorry, "part of a promotion last month."

Perhaps they've been hurt by Beauchamp more than they care to admit, or perhaps they'll admit how much they've been hurt once they've completed a careful re-reporting of the damage to their advertising revenue.

Posted by: notropis at November 9, 2007 05:06 PM

"the longer people have to wait for it, the worse the fabricators become."

It's so true, and its part of the reason I've been so interested in this TNR fiasco. Stonewalling and resistance to a material change in behavior is such an exceptional indicator of underlying corruption. As a professional risk manager in the financial industry, I've encountered operations in acquisitions that have stonewalled reasonable efforts to integrate the new corporate controls. I've been told everything from "our culture is different" to "we run Linux, so your policies won't work here." Invariably, the greater the resistance, the deeper the problems turn out to be when we finally uncover them. And trust me, the day of reckoning does come eventually. Bob's continued efforts are a real treat for us organizational risk junkies.

My curiosity with this mess is no longer with Beauchamp, nor really that of Foer and his staff. Beauchamp hopefully will commit to becoming a useful human being and discover some potential in an otherwise disappointing life. For Foer and his staff, their demise is just a matter of time. Worse yet, there's little demand in a declining industry for incompetents and phonies.

The real question is why the parent corporation is so incapable of action when it has a fiduciary requirement to do so as an entity with public equity. I would expect at this point that CanWest must be a festering mess and as previous incidents with its mingling with Canada's Liberal Party suggest it is far from an openly operated corporation. As Pinch Sulzberger has discovered, you can't operate a public firm as a trust fund baby's special interest vehicle and also expect the positive returns from long-term ethically-aligned management.

Posted by: redherkey at November 9, 2007 06:08 PM

pablo: is it really that hard to figure out that advertisers run ads in publications that meet whatever metrics the advertisers are seeking and don't advertise in publications that don't meet the metrics and thus their decision to stop advertising in TNR is likely because they decided they weren't getting their money's worth?

Posted by: stevesturm at November 9, 2007 07:13 PM


Is the almighty dollar the only reason you can come up with for them removing their ads?

If so, it must be very lonely being you.

Posted by: C-C-G at November 9, 2007 08:28 PM

"The real question is why the parent corporation is so incapable of action when it has a fiduciary requirement to do so as an entity with public equity."

The only explanation I can come up with is that TNR isn't that big a piece of CanWest's budget. Anyone have a convenient link into that window?

Posted by: notropis at November 10, 2007 12:13 AM

steve, it's hard to figure out from the available evidence. It's easy as hell to guess though, isn't it?

Posted by: Pablo at November 10, 2007 02:30 AM

I scanned through CanWest's financials this morning. Overall, their broadcasting properties appear to be doing relatively well compared to last year and per notropis's comments, I'd also have to guess TNR is little more than a distraction. Next year, however, is going to be fun to watch...

Their most recent 10K indicates 31 million (Canadian) in new operating income, but more interesting is the ~35 million in income not from operations (foreign exchange gains, investment gains, interest rate/currency swaps). In a sense, CanWest made more from being exposed to foreign exchange risk and interest rates than they did net from operations.

They also had a ~90 million increase in 2007 from discontinued operations. Net cash is less than half of last year. Outstanding receivables have jumped up, payables and accrued liabilities have increased significantly. Their liquidity ratios have turned significantly for the worse. Overall, CanWest has taken on significant risk and next year's annual report will be very interesting to review. I'm guessing they have bigger issues than a declining magazine with editors publishing fake stories.

Posted by: redherkey at November 10, 2007 10:25 AM