Spot The Sponsored Content, Ctd

Mar 4 2013 @ 12:41pm


A reader passes along the “Examples of Native Advertising” entry on WikiExample. It’s a terrific guide to some of the tricks of the trade. The caption for the above screenshot:

Devour’s video ads are integrated with all of their curated videos and clearly marked as an “AD.” In the bottom right corner there is an ad for “Mouthopedia,” which is an entertaining video by Mcdonalds about their Bigmac. This allows the advertiser to get a similar CTR [Click-through rate] as the other spots as it is right in line to the other curated videos.

But at least it clearly says “AD”. I’d rather the word “ADVERTISEMENT”. It’s what we’re used to in understanding the difference between editorial and advertizing. Update from a reader:

I think Wiki is using an old method of Devour IDing ads. The site doesn’t even mark them anymore, so it’s even worse now. For example, a Grey Poupon ad the site is hosting as “Sponsored Video” (a small label in the same color font as the video’s description, thus barely noticeable) is not even labeled as such on the front page

A reader adds to this post about Buzzfeed using Fark to direct traffic to its ads:

I’m a long-time Farker and I’ve noticed these new Buzzfeed links, too. The existence of sponsored links isn’t new to Fark, actually. We’ve seen sponsored headlines for a few years (e.g., from Cracked). What makes these new ads really different is that there isn’t a link to comments. Fark is a comment-driven site and the lack of ability to comment on a link like this really makes it stand out, and not in a good way. When Cracked sponsors a link, there’s a risk that they’ll draw in snark if the link sucks. In a weird way, that makes me respect those links more, even though they’re just as commercially driven and, if anything, more stealthy. The lack of ability to talk about the Buzzfeed links signals, to me, a lack of confidence, and I’m sure that I’m not the only Farker who feels the same. Because of this, I don’t think that they’re doing their advertisers much of a favor with this trick.

Several more examples from readers below:

I don’t know if you saw it but at the bottom of the “sponsored content” IBM ad on The Atlantic you linked to it states that “comments for this thread are now closed”. I wanted to leave a comment expressing my displeasure with the ad. Alas, I cannot, but there are no other comments in there anyway. Were comments ever open?

I also notice the article was tweeted 37 times. I wonder how many of those twitter uses knew/did not know that this was an ad.

I wonder how many of them work for IBM or the Atlantic. Another:

Check out one of the more popular tech sites, Techmeme. It says “Sponsor Posts” but I used to click on them without realizing it until it hit me recently.

Still, the Techmeme sponsored ads are clearly not Techmeme once you get past the homepage. They have a different font, look, design and feel. Again, with enough clarity and disclosure, you can create ads that are not like, say, the Atlantic’s blatant tactics of making its ads almost indistinguishable from its editorial content. Another:

This “sponsored content” on Deadspin was written by a real writer with a byline. The word “sponsored” only appears twice on the page. And there are no comments.

But that’s Gawker. It doesn’t even pretend to be ethical about anything. Another turns the tables:

I’d like to remind you of a post of yours from a few months ago, “A Bigger, Hairier Rom-Com,” about the premiere of Bear City 2. Your disclosure is pretty weak here. “Aaron’s in it” is only sufficient for people who are regular readers who pay attention to your personal life and totally discounts readers who started reading your blog since the last time you mentioned your husband Aaron. I can miss this detail just as easily as glancing over “Sponsored by Brand X” in a by-line.

While there’s a HUGE difference between the advertorials you’ve posted here and your post, it’s not unreasonable to assume that you have a financial incentive to encourage more people to see your spouse’s movie by giving it free publicity. I’m not calling you out, and I don’t think for a second that Aaron twisted your arm or that you had some motive for the post other than “people will like this movie that I liked,” but at the end of the day, your editorial content was advertising. I’m just trying to keep you honest.

Here’s the line in the post in the first paragraph:

Full disclosure: Aaron’s in it. Provincetown is the star. Hence my review.

I don’t know why that is weak. And Aaron has received no money from the movie since it ended production.