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Is Marketing Sleazy?

September 13th, 2005 by Bob Bly

In his new book ?Irresistible Offers,? Mark Joyner writes:

?One could present a compelling case that marketing is destroying this planet. The average American goes deep into debt buying silly (and sometimes downright harmful) things that he simply does not need. This process has not just pushed the average consumer into debt; it has lowered his values as well.

?When you are bombarded with messages day after day that present a world where selfishness, shallowness, and greed are the ultimate ideals, it?s hard not to start believing that world is your own as well.?

Do you agree? Is marketing sleazy?

And if marketing is indeed sleazy, which marketers are the sleaziest? Direct marketers? Internet marketers? Cigarette companies? Car dealers? Attorneys?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2005 at 10:07 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

101 responses about “Is Marketing Sleazy?”

  1. Walter Terry said:

    In and of itself, marketing is not sleazy. Inherently, it cannot be sleazy. It’s the application of it that makes it sleazy or not. And in that respect, it’s like anything else. Good? Bad? Depends on how it’s applied and the filters used to judge the outcome. Also, couldn’t help but notice how Joyner’s comments totally eliminates the concept of personal responsibility. Convenient. And Joyner … realistically should not be casting aspersions about sleaze. Small wonder his worldview reflects that.

  2. Stan Smith said:

    Like any other human activity, marketing has its dark side. It can make people aware of goods and services that can truly improve their lives, and prompt them to buy. But it can also push the wrong buttons and encourage people, in their weakness, to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have.

    As Walter implies, the ill effects of marketing are a price of the personal responsibility that comes with free choice.

  3. Don Marti said:

    Here’s my answer (long) and a followup question:

    Direct marketers, have you ever done a project for a client that had multiple negative pages in the top 10 Google results for their name? If so, how did the campaigns do?

  4. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Don. I read your article. It’s excellent.

  5. Bob Bly said:

    Don: I just wrote a very successful control for a client who has multiple negative comments in the top ten Google results for his name. And there are countless best-selling books that get crappy reviews on What’s your point? Remember Rob Gilbert’s formula SWL + SWL = SW: “Some will like your product. Some will not like your product. So what?”

  6. Don Marti said:

    Bob, I didn’t really have a point yet, I was just hoping to gather some information about how DM and online reputation interact.

  7. Marketing Headhunter said:

    Two things:

    1.) I (always!) agree with Peter Drucker: “The only two functions in any business that matter are marketing and innovation. Everything else is expendable.”

    2.) GREAT picture of you, Bob, in the latest issue of “Deliver” magazine. Loved your opinion piece “The awful truth about branding” on page 7.

  8. Pam Gitta said:

    I agree that the first one to blame is the person responsible for spending money that he doesn’t have. I think sleaze enters the picture when a marketer preys on those who are less–let’s say “worldly,” than himself.

  9. Johan said:

    Hi all

    Marketing is not sleazy.

    Sleazyness depends on how some people apply marketing.

    Some people are sleazy.



  10. Bill Blass said:

    I guess you could say that “sleazy” is simply an opinion that is decided by the society in which we live. Americans that visit certain Scadanavian countries might see a television commercial while visiting that particular country and think that a topless woman in a beer commercial is a bit “sleazy”. A muslim from the middle east visiting America might think a nostalgic, Wendy’s “where’s the beef” commercial is not only sleazy, but downright “sacrilegious” or “blasphemous”.

    Sleaze is in the eye of the beholder.

    Bob, I think the proper question might be be “Is it sleazy for an advertizer to present a product that is innapropriate to certain sectors “outside” of it’s intended and targeted audience.

    To this question I would say “yes”, but to it’s intended audience I would say “no”.

    If I were running a porn-site (which I don’t, by the way) and my audience was advertised to “with” pornographic material, then I have done my job.

    But… On the other hand, if I try to push this same advertising out to sixth graders… I should be swinging from the highest tree! This I would consider “sleaze”.


    I know some of you reading this have religious convictions that say I’m wrong… that there is a fine line… that there is a black and a white, but understand this:

    Just because you believe something to be fact doesn’t make it so.

  11. ReadyCompanies said:

    excellent article

  12. Dave Fobare said:

    Marketing is not sleazy. Mark Joyner is sleazy.

  13. Suzie said:

    Marketing is becoming more and more sleazy. At the end of the day, most businesses want to make a profit, and dont care about the customer. Having an advertising campaign designed to push ideas onto people is sleazy. Businesses methods of advertising are getting sleazier. Using sex to sell is extremely sleazy.
    In response to Bill Blass, using porn to advertise porn would be sleazy, asyou cannot guarantee who woul see that imagery. Pornography or anything remotel seedy should be advertisd with words only.

  14. Jason said:

    I totally disagree that marketing is putting people into debt! The reason I say that is that there was a study done that shows smaller ticket items as a percentage of income have actually dropped from a generation ago. The thing they said that’s killing people is house payments and the need for a second car. Now you could argue if that second car has to be a lexus or the like that it might be part of the problem.

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