Forbes Agency Council: A Scam and Money-Making Scheme

Forbes Magazine 2

After speaking to multiple agency professionals across a variety of marketing disciplines, we are getting the feeling that the Forbes Agency Council is a scheme and scam – albeit one endorsed by Forbes Magazine.

In December, Forbes announced plans for the “Forbes Agency Council”, a new council they claim is all about exclusivity and business connection services. It’s invitation only and offered to senior “executives in public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.” They promise all kinds of perks for those who are “lucky” enough to be accepted, saying only 10% will make it in – though we’re not sure what the 10% refers to – is that 10% of those invited, or just 10% of top executives in the listed sectors? In all honesty, we find their number very hard to believe.

The perks accepted members supposedly receive is getting their articles published in Forbes, peer matchups, a special concierge service, and health insurance options.

Let’s start with the first claim (as published on Forbes Agency Council): “Members receive the exclusive opportunity to share their thought leadership by contributing original articles to Forbes.com, with its nearly 38 million monthly readers. Members can submit business articles and tips directly through the member dashboard, where our editorial team edits the content and then publishes it on Forbes.com.”

They don’t tell you that it takes up to 8 weeks for the content to publish – and you will receive endless calls and emails as a member trying to sell you writing services of some unknown writer (from Forbes or a random agency, no one tells that part) when calling from “Forbes Agency Council.” Nor is it made clear if said content is identified as native content or not.

Their “Top health insurance benefits” mean they will be acting as an insurance broker and probably making a commission off of any deal they offer members. Now, consider this “concierge service” and “health insurance”, yet members must have “a minimum of $2 Million in revenue” – Can one have that sort of revenue and not have access to Amex concierge, or a slew of health insurance brokers?

This is all about Forbes’ licensing their name – and receiving commissions (kickbacks) for someone to exploit their name in health insurance, the services one needs from concierge, and more. One other feature, they’ll give you a web badge to proudly display the Forbes name on your website – hence, Forbes’ brand is for sale.

Every month you can also make use of a Council virtual personal assistant – let them book travel plans for you – although wouldn’t any top-level executive already have a personal assistant or other staff members handling those items and keeping any discounts inhouse?

And can one pay money and write for Forbes.com? Where will it be noted that this is a pay for play? Is it? Sounds like a desperate way for a publisher to make money – while exploiting a great brand name.

We can say this, Forbes has learned well from some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs and marketing people – they know how to sell, but that’s not really what people want from Forbes, is it?

Scott D. Gerber

Scott D. Gerber

Who came up with the Forbes Agency Council Plan?

According to Forbes, this plan was proposed by Scott D. Gerber, the founder and CEO of YEC (Young Entrepreneurs Council). Mike Perlis, President and CEO of Forbes Media said, “As Forbes’ global reach and engagement with business innovators continues to grow, we’re constantly looking for ways to better serve our audience. YEC’s team brings a deep understanding of high-touch and highly personalized community management that will allow us to better identify and serve the exclusive communities that exist within our global audience.”

Gerber is a self-described “hustler, rainmaker, and bootstrapper who has survived and thrived despite never having held the proverbial “real” job.”

So he’s taking the exact model he formed his YEC organization with and trying to force established successful entrepreneurs into his square hole – and it isn’t a good fit. It will never be a good fit. We’re a bit dumbfounded why Forbes ever believed it would – but they do. Since introducing the Forbes Agency Council, they’ve put all their efforts into mashing that round peg where it won’t fit.

If you wanted to join this “elite” group, what would be required?

Your firm must be located in North America, and “Qualified candidates must work with (or have founded) an organization with a minimum of $2 million annual revenue and/or $2 million in financing.”.

We are still wondering what Forbes was thinking when they put this deal together. Why would they put their high-quality and exceptional brand name on what appears to be a scam to bring in a few dollars?  We think they are better than that, but apparently they don’t.

Neither Forbes Magazine nor the “Forbes Agency Council” would comment for this story.