Advertising Theft

Once upon a time, a man bought some property beside a highway. Then he bought some lumber and some steel and proceeded to build himself a large billboard. He then offered to lease billboard space to any and all interested parties.  Shortly thereafter, a man who made and sold knick-knacks saw the billboard and inquired about leasing it in order to advertise his product.  A deal was struck and the billboard owner put up an advertisement for the knick-knack seller.

Not too long after that, a fellow that made and sold widgets drove by the very same billboard.  He knew that if he could get his advertisement on that billboard that many people would see it and his business would get a boost.  But rather than inquire about leasing space on the billboard as the knick-knack seller had done, he began rationalizing all sorts of reasons why he shouldn’t have to pay anything to advertise his widgets there.  So he pulled over, got a ladder out of his vehicle and proceeded to climb up and paste an advertisement for his widgets on the billboard.

Of the three folks involved here, which one has acted in an unethical, unfair manner? I think most will quickly agree that the guy who simply pasted an advertisement next to a paid advertiser, on a billboard which someone else owns, is the one committing the unethical act.

This scenario takes place every day on rod building internet forums. Folks that have incurred no expense in setting up and operating a forum will backdoor the owner and paying sponsors by adding their website URL to their signature, or putting their business logo in their avatar, or perhaps simply make outright mention of their product or service within a message post. They feign innocence and pretend to see nothing unethical nor unfair about such a practice. Granted, a few may actually be obtuse enough to believe they haven’t done anything wrong, but most are smart enough to know exactly what they’re doing – they’re advertising on someone else’s nickel. In short, they’re stealing.

Bottom line – there is a cost associated with doing business. If you wish to benefit from the expense and efforts of others, be willing to pay your fair share. It’s the right thing to do. It keeps you in good standing with the industry and among potential customers. Anything less is not only poor business – it’s stealing.

Tom Kirkman



  1. J Glenn on November 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Do you distinguish between members with links to their site and suppliers trying to hijack advertising through contribution?

    For instance: – on a builder that contributes regularly has a link to his own website where he showcases his finished builds and takes new orders. Because he does not provide components, it would be hard to argue that he is trying to hijack advertising – the community is not his target. I think the vast majority would see no problem with this.

    That scenario is very different from a non-sponsoring component supplier that pipes in and graciously offers his or her product to solve a poster’s problems.

    It feels like your “beef” is with the latter, though I would be interested to find out your opinion on forum members including links to their own sites.

    Even this comment entry form, for example, has a “Website” entry which asks, presumably, for my own website – exactly the infraction that is being discussed.

  2. Bob Balcombe on November 8, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Tom you are totally correct. For some reason everyone expects something for free. For you who read these posts. No matter what it is there is a cost some where involved. Nothing in this world is free. Even when it comes to advertising and they say just pay for shipping and handling. Hey if done right the product given away for free is a money maker
    Good Wraps Bob

  3. Tom on November 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    J. Glenn,

    If you read the rules on my forum, you will no doubt note that rod builders are allowed to publish their personal website links on the forum as long as they do not sell anything other than custom rods.

    My comments were geared towards companies and individuals who purposely put their website URL and mentions of their product in front of folks that they definitely know would be potential customers. As a custom rod builder, if you were to post on a general fishing forum and publish your custom rod website without paying an advertising fee, then in effect you’d be stealing from that website’s owner and any paying sponsors.

  4. HRemini on November 10, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I feel sure that most know that they are stealing free advertising but others just stumble into a forum or chat group and put their name and business out there without giving it a second thought. They are just making an oversight IMO.