The High Cost Of Integrity and Independence

Being RightSince returning from three and half weeks of business travel, for speaking, I’ve been in a somewhat contemplative state. I admit to having tuned out most of the ‘debt ceiling debate’ while on the road. Hopping from city to city, and country to country, in major chunks by car and plane, gives you quite the opportunity to be introspective.

At a relatively early age, I think most of us learn that life isn’t fair. Recently, I’ve become more aware of the plummeting value of integrity and ethics. I know… this is a wedding marketing blog. Somewhere along the line, I made the declaration that…

“…marketing is everything that touches the customer.’

In the wedding industry, it has become far more complicated than that. The interactive dance of bride-media-venue-vendor-et al has become a conglomeration of overreaching, on too many occasions.

Code words such as: “my bride” or “my couple” are mindless inferences that a single business has ownership of the bride or wedding couple and their decisions.

When someone says “I recommend them because they always follow our rules.”, it may be code for: “We don’t want anyone’s creativity interfering with our ability to get home in time for Saturday Night Live.”

“I’m not a public service, I have a business to run.” is code for: “I know I’m doing business with a jerk, but if it brings me business, I’m going to employ situational ethics.”

“The percentage we take for referring business is simply the cost of doing business.” is a ham-handed way of saying, “We narrow the field of leads for you, and if the value of business is worth it to, your business will happily pay it.” – Fair enough, but with the absence of transparency (revealing that percentage to the customer), I’m not sure if the policy passes the complete smell test.

I continue to look for fairness or reasonableness from time to time, but mostly find abuse of power, situational ethics, and lack of integrity.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now. Not so… I continually seek to do business with like-minded people.

How about you? Do you think about who (and what companies) you do business with? What bugs you? What makes you happy?

Share YOUR wisdom… and philosophy.

Andy Ebon - signature



Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Take This Cake And Shove It! – An Ethical Quandary

Cut the cakeOn Wednesday, I had the privilege of speaking to a packed room of members and guests of Convention Services Association – Las Vegas, on a topic, titled “Situational Ethics: What Would You Do?.” I wasn’t so much a speaker, as moderator, or instigator.

What was interesting was the caution, with which people chose to answer to the scenarios I challenged them with. Rock the boat? Only when pressed. Perhaps it was a fear of YouTube or secret audio recordings.

Sometimes, the answers came quickly. But when challenged with the possible outcomes, some folks went into retreat.

One of the classic scenarios involved an obstinate catering manager directing the disc jockey to cut the cake, NOW!

In this scenario, NOW!, would have been about 90 minutes earlier than the bride had detailed, with the DJ. About two and half hours before the end of the event.

It’s an out of town bride, in contract, directly with the DJ, having discussed and planned the schedule of events with them. The catering manager had her own plans, preferring to cut staff expenses, with a shorter shift, despite having charged the client a cake cutting fee.

In simple terms, the bride is the DJ’s client. In more complex terms, the DJ is being ‘ordered’ by the catering manager to ‘Do what I say, or you won’t work here, again.”

So, what would you do? Who the client is, officially, is one thing. How you proceed can be quite another thing.

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority

Situational Ethics

Situational EthicsWhen I was 24, having just moved to San Francisco, I landed a job in advertising with KBRG Spanish Radio. I had very few contacts in town, but one of them was an entertainment talent agent, who also promoted some concerts.

I was fortunate to make a sale with him, almost  immediately, promoting a Salsa concert. Beginning a job in a new market, that was a huge get.

The Sunday concert was well attended and I was excited to get to the office on Monday. Only to find out that due a clerical error, the client’s campaign had not been aired for several days prior to the show. A slate of radio spots worth about $500.

Quite concerned, I immediately went in to talk to the station managers, a husband and wife team. I explained the situation, and they followed up with a couple of questions.

“How did the concert go?”  them… “Happily, quite well” I responded.

“Does the client know” them… “Not that I’m aware of…. why do you ask?”

“Well, if the client doesn’t know, perhaps we should just let it go… (aka Keep quiet about it)

“You think so?” I answered. “What could it hurt?” they asked.

I just nodded and left the office to get a cup of coffee, and  think about the conundrum. If the concert went well, then the client was damaged, was he? But the station took the money, and would have to refund $500. Would the managers look askance at me, for being too ‘holy’?

There were other considerations. I didn’t have a pile of savings and was looking to succeed in radio advertising. I was not really ready to look for a new job. There was definitely pressure and conflicting choices.

Gone by lunch: I finished the coffee and returned the office. I went in and resigned. Just like that.

I figured if I started cutting corners this soon, it couldn’t be a good thing. I would find another job. Staying at KBRG suddenly seemed uncomfortable.

This is a great example of Situational Ethics. There is not a simple answer to the scenario I’ve described. I might have stayed on a while, before the next job, for example. I’m sure you can think of several alternative courses of action.

These types of integrity scenarios confront us in business, almost daily. Some we analyze thoroughly and act with honor. Other times we delude ourselves and rationalize marginal actions. Many times there is no right or easy path.

On Wednesday, June 16th, 11:30am at First Food and Bar (at the Palazzo Hotel Shops), I’ll be giving an interactive presentation for CSA Las Vegas (Convention Services Association Las Vegas). One part presentation, one part problem solving. It’s bound to challenge people’s thinking. It’s also designed to make them squirm.

If you’re in Las Vegas, you’re invited to attend. If you’re not here, I might just post a scenario or two, on this blog, down the road.

The big question: What would you do?

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority

Ebon blasts ad-supported banquet publications in ADJA presentation

Never one to duck a tough question, Andy Ebon used a verbal flamethrower in labeling ad-supported banquet publications as fatally flawed. A medium he described as “perfectly legal, but fraught with conflicts of interest and ultimately bad for the venue, the vendor, and the client.”

The question was posed as “What do you think about ‘pay to play’?” After decoding, the question was clarified as: “What do you think about vendors advertising within banquet publications, tied to individual venues?”

Background: If you are not familiar with this particular style of marketing, it works something like this. A printer/publisher approaches a venue (hotel, country club, etc.,) with the following proposition.

“We will publish a full-color brochure presenting your banquet services that will cost your venue nothing. It will be paid for by advertising of vendors. All you need to is provide us your preferred vendor list and content for the brochure. We will do the rest. It will save you a bundle.”

The ‘deal‘ is rarely, if ever, made at the Director of Catering level. The proposition is made to the Food and Beverage Manager or General Manager, in most cases. Free banquet publication. Just insert a price list. What could possibly be bad about this? Plenty!!

The Call to You: “Hi, I’m Jim Bob, working with Katy Caterer at the XYZ Country Club, how are you doing today?”

And with that, the misrepresentations and half-truths begin. Jim Bob is working WITH, not FOR, the XYZ Country Club. The rep is working for Blue Rhino Publishing (a fictitious name), not for the venue.

Want a clear answer as to who, exactly, they work for? Ask who (what company) signs their paycheck?

The Pitch, in short:

Katy really values your work for her clients at the club, and asked me to reach out to preferred vendors, such as you, to support her new in-house banquet publication. Only select vendors have been invited to advertise. It will be given to all wedding prospects, free of charge, to help promote your work at the venue. Here are the advertising choices…… Can Katy count on your participation?

Here are just some of the conflicting issues:

  • What is implied, but usually goes unsaid is: “If you don’t advertise in the publication, you will be dropped from the preferred vendor list. Going forward, the publication will become ‘the preferred vendor list.”
  • If the publisher does not fill the brochure with vendors from the preferred list, they often search out advertisers who may not have a relationship with property. Odd for the caterer when they receive the banquet publication, showing ads from unfamiliar vendors. A vendor crap-shoot for the prospective client.
  • If venue management changes, it is not uncommon to change marketing direction and throw the banquet publications AND YOUR MARKETING MONEY in the trash.
  • If you choose not to advertise in the publication, but have a great relationship with Katy Caterer, she may tell you, “Don’t worry, I’ll continue to refer you.” While this may appear fine for you, it shows a clear ethical flaw. The venue is taking paid ads with the offer of some exclusivity, but has little problem compromising that premise. This is commonly referred to as: Situational Ethics.
  • If an advertiser does some stinko work (a technical term) for a venue client, their ad remains in the brochure, until the distribution is exhausted. Venues have been known to draw an X through vendors they no longer recommend. Tacky? Of course, whether these vendors earned their black mark or not, they shouldn’t expect a partial refund for their ad.

Your opinion matters. Speak Up!
Your opinion matters. Speak Up!

Now it’s time for your opinion:

  • What have your experience been with this medium? Good, bad or indifferent.
  • There are surely other weaknesses in this type of program. What has been missed in this post?
  • As a vendor or venue, what is your recommendation, based on  your direct experiences and those you have observed.

There is an old adage that applies best to this kind of marketing, for all parties concerned.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority