Editor's Note: Trudeau Story Points the Finger at ‘Self-Regulation’ … Again1 Apr, 2014 By: Thomas Haire Response
If there’s one thing that separates former “As Seen on TV” pitchman and marketer Kevin Trudeau from the shysters who ran America’s mortgage and banking system into the ground late last decade, it’s this: the federal government wasn’t afraid to go after Trudeau to the fullest extent of the law. On March 17, Trudeau was sentenced to 10 years in jail by a federal court judge in Chicago.
Trudeau’s list of enemies and detractors is no longer than in the DR marketing space, which was consistently hampered by his continued brushes with regulators. It’s fair to say that no single person did more to hamstring direct response as a viable marketing method for the wider brand world than Trudeau.
Fortunately, the good works of many other marketers, agencies and vendors overcame the actions of Trudeau and others like him to put DR at the center of marketing plans for some of the world’s biggest marketers. But that doesn’t mean everyone in the business deserves credit.
In the months leading up to his sentencing, one of Trudeau’s shows was still running with enough frequency to appear on the industry’s leading rankings charts. While some would have you believe that’s just business, I beg to differ. And based on some E-mails and social media comments I received after Trudeau’s sentencing, many others don’t believe that’s just business — at all.
For years, we’ve heard that the DR space does a better job of policing itself through self-regulation rather than having regulators crack down with a heavy hand. But if this business’ version of self-regulation (whether through an official program or simply through personal business ethics) allows a Trudeau show to keep running heavily while we all knew he was battling to stay out of jail much of the past five years, then it’s hard to consider the well-meaning idea of “self-regulation” as any more than lip service.
That’s right: Trudeau was hit with a $37 million judgment for his TV advertising misdeeds in 2009. After the judgment, he cried poor and fought to avoid paying the judgment only to finally land in jail.
Of course, during the past 13 years at the editorial helm of Response, I’ve seen first-hand that sometimes even seemingly excellent marketers come under regulatory scrutiny. As a matter of fact, two winners of the Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA) Marketer of the Year award (which we operate and is voted on by the industry) — Your Baby Can and SENSA — later ran afoul of regulators.
But do we shy away from those stories because our readers and members believed them worthy of an honor in prior years? No, we covered both immediately, committed only to truth and good reporting. It’s all we could do.
Did those involved with helping Trudeau’s shows remain on the air until his sentencing truly do all they could — in good faith and in a spirit of camaraderie and self-regulation — for the industry?
Thomas Haire, Editor-in-Chief