Let's Get a Leash on those Legal Beagles

As is commonplace these days, almost everybody responding to Jimmy's column this week missed the point of his weekly Spin. Jim asked a smart question when he inquired about the point of having T&C standards if nobody adheres to them. What he's too nice to point out, however, is that corporate counsel seems to rule over the process of signing insertion orders these days. There are a bunch of lawyers working for publishers that seem to need to prove their value to their own organizations by attempting to reserve rights for themselves that are either redundant under the IAB's V.20 T&Cs, or they're just plain silly.

Case in point, Jimmy was working on one contract this week that made absolutely no sense. The publisher's legal team was trying to reserve the right to cancel the campaign at any time for any reason. Wisely, Jim asked, "Why?"

The ad sales rep responded that the publisher needed to reserve this right in case one of our ads was deemed inappropriate, offensive or indecent. But that can't be the reason why. The IAB T&Cs state: Media Company reserves the right within its discretion to reject or remove from its Site any Ads where the Advertising Materials or the site to which the Ad is linked do not comply with its Policies, or that in Media Company’s sole reasonable judgment, do not comply with any applicable law, regulation or other judicial or administrative order.

So the publisher already has this right and we find ourselves dealing with a lawyer who wants to inject all sorts of redundant crapola into the already-time-consuming process of approving insertion orders. What's driving this? An overzealous lawyer eager to prove his value to his company.

I want to point out that there's at least one smart company out there that realizes these legal snafus are a detriment to its business and has done away with it. That company is AOL.

A while back, I interviewed Michael Barrett as a follow-up to a Spin column about the elimination of their director of agency relations position. Michael promised easier T&Cs negotiation and delivered on that promise. Whereas doing business with AOL used to be a legal nightmare, these days it's as easy as submitting the IAB T&Cs and putting your John Hancock on the bottom line.

Publishers should take a look at the effect of protracted legal discussions on their bottom line business and make a decision as to whether all the extraneous BS is worth it.