An industry-wide survey just released by PR agency Manning Selvage & Lee with trade magazine PR Week reveals that all but half (48.9%) of senior marketing executives own up to paying for broadcast brand placement or editorial appearances.

Moreover, the survey - which polled 266 chief marketing officers, marketing vice-presidents and directors - discovered that of the 51.1% who had not thus sinned, half conceded they would have done so had an opportunity arisen.

"This type of behavior is as harmful to PR professionals as it is to consumers and the media," chided Mark Hass, ceo of Publicis Groupe-owned MS&L, hands aloft in pious indignation. "When people see the erosion of concepts like objectivity, they start to lose faith in any organization claiming to be objective."

Steel yourself, Mr Haas, there's worse to come.

Of those righteous marketers who claim they wouldn't consider paying for editorial or broadcast placements, fewer than half (43%) said they desisted because it was unethical. And nearly a third (32.4%) simply weren't convinced of its efficacy.

Which leaves just a doughty group of ethicists - 21.6% all told - who said they preferred their advertising and editorial content to be more distinct.

"I think there is a very short life span for publishers with no standards," pronounced Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, who is clearly destined to go through life in a fog of disillusionment.

Consumers, however, are more pragmatic. A study carried out in October 2005 by another Publicis unit, media agency Starcom MediaVest, found that 65% of consumers believed editorial mentions of a product had been obtained by dint of folding money.

As Voltaire observed, albeit probably not of marketers: "Common sense is not so common."

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff