Nothing in life is free. Except, it seems, a mommyblogger.
We are all officially known as the Best Free Advertising Resource of the Marketing World.
It's a big title, I know. Maybe too big to fit on a sash, when we walk down the aisle at our next mommyblogger pageant (brought to you by Piggly Wiggly and the makers of Turtle Wax). But I'm sure with a skillful hand, it can be cross-stitched in teeny lettering on a nice throw pillow and given away in a blog contest. Six extra entries if you Twitter it.
How do I know about this coveted accolade we've earned? Because yesterday, the advertising team at Cool Mom Picks (a small and worthy mom-run business if I ever knew one) spent a good deal of time putting together a proposal for a four-month advertising program for a major brand that was rejected because *gasp* we had the audacity to ask for actual money to run their banners.
Not giveaways for our readers.
Not "a link on our microsite" or "access to our event" or "gift cards for your readers" which is in fact what they were hoping to compensate us with.
Money. As in, that stuff we use to pay our writers and designers and tech guys and the US Postal Service and the fine discount hotels of Las Vegas during trade show season.
I think the actual response from the marketer was something like: Oh, we don't need to pay for this. The mommyblogs are so great, they're excited to help and do it in exchange for a link!
Here is the specific "help" they are referring to:
-Promotion on your website and all social media outlets (blog, Facebok, Twitter, etc)Now stop and think about that for a sec:
-Placement of promotional banner ads on your blog with hyperlink
-Dedicated email blasts and/or inclusion in newsletter highlighting the promotion
-Promotional links on existing promotional material (ie on emails you send to your readers)
In exchange for a link.
And it's not even the first time I've heard that moms are lining up for this kind of exchange.
Now let's be generous (very generous) and assume that their microsite sends you a whole 10 visits a day with that big ol' promised link. That's 300 visits a month. That's 1200 visits over the length of this 4-month campaign. If you're normally earning a $10 cpm on your banner ads (again, being generous here) and you've agreed to post their banner in your sidebar, you've just offered up 4 months of graphical banner advertising on your site (plus twittering, Facebook updates, emails, and so on) to a huge company for a whopping $12.
Why, I do believe their marketing agency is getting a bonus this year!
For a long term I've been writing about this stuff. (Hey, I'm in advertising and it's on my mind. It's a disease, really.) I've written about what you're worth as a blogger. About why women in particular tend to undervalue ourselves. About self-promoting with class and dignity. About the difference between advertising and editorial, and understanding why we don't ask PR agencies for money when they pitch us a story, but why we do ask for it when they want us to place their video widgets in our sidebars and stick a BRAND AMBASSADOR badge on our home pages right next to that photo of our children, you know, the cute one at the swimming pool.
I've said over and over that yes, what you do with your blog does affect the rest of us. And that just because a six year-old in the Guangdong Province is willing to build injection molded plastic toys for $.10 an hour doesn't make it okay.
And just a few weeks ago, I got into an interesting discussion on Twitter, about why, if we're signing a contract with a big marketer for a one year spokesperson gig, something some mommybloggers are angling to do right now, we need to stand up together and say--politely--why, thank you ever so much for the opportunity, Big Marketer, I can't wait to get to work and do the greatest job ever. Now let's talk fee...
Of course those marketers will get what they pay for. They always do.
But ack, it's getting so frustrating to those of us who really care about this kind of stuff.
Let me stop here and assure you, I'm not actually upset at all about losing the proposal. Happens all the time. Let me also say I can't blame the mommybloggers completely (although I think it's wildly naive to imagine that we'd somehow get the long end of the stick on this one). I do understand that a major appliance or a Visa gift card or a trip to scenic Cincinatti is a dandy trade for the seemingly small task of promoting something, especially in a tough economy. Even the promise of "publicity"can be pretty darn appealing.
Really, I'm less annoyed about moms who are willing to work for coffee makers than I am about a big brand that is willing to pay a mom in coffee makers.
Simply because they can.
Because they know a mom will accept.
But here's the thing, it won't stop until we all say no. Until we all say, this isn't good enough. And we send that marketing consultancy right back to their client, forced to confess that maybe this word of mouth campaign, this asking of the mommybloggers to do all of our advertising for no pay wasn't such a great idea after all.
Wouldn't it be nice if, just once, someone was forced to say, we underestimated the moms.
Even if you're just starting out, even if you have 10 readers and two of them are your toddler twins, your time and effort and endorsement are worth something.
I believe in you. Can't we all believe in ourselves?
Edited to add: As always, I want to make it realllllly clear that I don't believe in being paid for product reviews. That is not advertising, although I've seen it referred to as such by bloggers. That's editorial. There's some good clarification in comments, especially from Susan Getgood.