National Review joins the movement disguising ads as articles.
Archives For: Sponsored Content
“Basic publishing ethics dictate that fake articles be printed in clearly different type fonts and column widths, be enclosed by borderlines and be identified prominently as advertising. By contrast, as native advertising is most often practiced – and as the Federal Trade Commission has very much noticed – publishers allow their advertisers to run content strikingly similar in look and style to the real editorial. The label “advertising” is almost never applied. Instead they use confusing wiggle words like “sponsored content” or, even more obscurely, “from around the web”. The result is not merely deceiving to readers, it bespeaks a conspiracy of deception among publishers, advertisers and their agencies,” – Bob Garfield, at the Guardian, the latest publication to embrace the unethical deception of “native advertizing.”
Garfield also has a good round-up of those outlets who have now embraced whoredom: The Economist. Forbes. The Atlantic. The Huffington Post. The Washington Post. Time Inc. The New York Times, and, most recently, Yahoo.
Rosie Gray has a must-read on how the Ukraine government tried to get pro-Yanukovych op-eds into the US journalist mainstream. The usual suspects pop up. Money quote:
Huston didn’t directly deny being paid by Scoville. “I would not be open to say who pays me and who doesn’t,” he said.
Other writers who were producing incongruous pro-Party of Regions stories at the time include Ben Shapiro of Breitbart and Seton Motley, a conservative blogger. One of Shapiro’s Ukraine posts, “Hillary Sides With Anti-Semitic Ukrainian Opposition,” is nearly identical to a post that appeared four days later in a different publication under Huston’s byline: “Clinton Dept. of State Backing the Anti-Semitism Party in Ukraine?”
Shapiro said he hadn’t been paid by anyone other than his employers to do the posts.
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 18, 2014
From the reader who flagged the tweet:
I can’t tell whether it’s serious, but I can tell that people are seriously pissed:
But the beat will go on … and the press won’t write about it.
Much of the media isn’t covering the grotesque transformation of journalism into corporate public relations – well, they’re all in on it, aren’t they? – but the latest example is really rich. The Guardian – that lefty, anti-corporate, “comment-is-free” trans-Atlantic behemoth – is now merging with Unilever to produce “content”. What does that mean exactly? Well, follow the newspeak:
Guardian News and Media has signed a seven-figure deal to provide content about sustainability under the brand of household goods giant Unilever. It is the first deal for the new Guardian Labs division – which describes itself as a “branded content and innovation agency which offers brands bold and compelling new ways to tell their stories and engage with influential Guardian audiences”.
Guardian Labs employ some 133 staff including designers, video producers, writers and strategists who will work with The Guardian’s editorial, marketing and digital development teams.
A “content and innovation” agency. Helping “brands … tell their stories.” This is called public relations, guys. There’s nothing new or innovative about it whatsoever. What’s new is the deliberate attempt to merge this industry with journalism itself and to disguise the difference with bullshit. Smell the ordure:
The Guardian partnership with Unilever is said to be “centred on the shared values of sustainable living and open storytelling”.
Who knew that the giant manufacturer of such products as Axe Body Spray, Vaseline and Ben and Jerry’s has long been committed to “open story-telling,” whatever the fuck that means? Then check this out:
Chipotle has produced a miniseries about factory farming:
Farmed and Dangerous, which premieres on Hulu on Feb. 17, focuses on a fictional industrial agriculture company that devises a money-saving scheme to feed cows petroleum-based animal pellets. Lots of hijinks with exploding cattle and a nefarious PR spokesman ensue. The show exposes issues in the agriculture industry that Chipotle has publicly denounced, such as dependence on fossil fuels and overuse of antibiotics on animals. But instead of hearing about these points from the restaurant directly, viewers will learn about them by laughing at Twin Peaks star Ray Wise and a wide cast of other characters.
Could this be the future of advertising?
This is not advertising, exactly, but it’s not regular video programming either. Daniel Rosenberg, a partner at Piro, calls it “strategic entertainment.” The goal, he says, is “adding value to people’s lives rather than interrupting it with traditional advertising.” …
A reader gives Gawker some due regarding their partnership with Newcastle Ale:
I just wanted to provide this insight in case no one else has. I use Adblock Plus in my Firefox browser. When I clicked through to the Gawker post from your feed, the very first word and other words were missing from the body text – every instance of “Newcastle.” I toggled off ADP for just that page, and voila, they appeared.
I’ve used ADP for years and have enjoyed a pretty damn clean browsing experience. It’s kept me from getting too annoyed at online ads in general. But I wouldn’t have assumed it would protect my delicate sensibilities from innovative trickery such as paid content.
So, tip of the hat to Gawker. They instituted some tagging that allowed the brand they’re advertising to be made invisible if the smart visitor has taken measures to be shielded from ads. I think that’s rather ethical and deserves recognition.
For the record, the Dish has praised Newcastle Ale for its creative ads – when they are not enmeshed with editorial copy. We love ads – especially creative ones. We’ve had a Cool Ad Watch on this site for years. And yes, Gawker deserves props for tagging sponsored content as advertising. My concern is with the deceptive attempt to disguise ads as editorial – undermining the credibility of journalism, and conflating copy-writing with writing, for short-term cash at the expense of long-term viability. Another reader zooms out:
While I generally agree with you on the problem of native advertising, I have more confidence than you have that the audience can detect and separate advertising from journalism and commentary. Remember: native advertising has been around for a long, long, time. For example:
Here’s an “ad/post/article/sponsored content/whatever, it pays the rent” that leaps out:
Newcastle Ale ‘bought’ me — an in-house copywriter — because actual Gawker writers can’t accept money from advertisers (not that I’m personally cashing Newcastle’s checks but you know, whatever). As someone being paid to write this, I have to say that it’s the greatest ad ever, mostly because Newcastle asked me to use those exact words. Is it the greatest ad I’ve ever been paid to call the greatest ad ever? Yes.
It’s by Stephanie Georgopulos, Senior Content Producer at Gawker Media, or more technically, a “sponsored collaboration” between Newcastle and Studio@Gawker. Yes, the newspeak deepens every time you check in.
It’s an interesting twist on sponsored content, and perhaps – or am I over-reaching? – a harbinger of its eventual collapse.
Erik Wemple has another blockbuster piece on the corporate public relations newsletter known as Mike Allen’s Playbook at Politico. This time, it’s about the constant, fawning press releases Allen writes for his favorite news channel and personal idol, Roger Ailes. The latest piece of puffery from Allen is a summary of the new Gabe Sherman book on the Republican operative running the Republican Party’s propaganda outlet. For some reason, almost none of the critical details about Ailes made it into Allen’s account, merely anything that Ailes himself would be happy with:
He chose far more flattering stuff, like the part about Ailes being “The Most Powerful Man in the World,” about Ailes’s rough childhood, about Ailes winning over Rupert Murdoch, about Ailes winning over employees, about Ailes’s marketing genius, about Politico scoring a presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan library, to Ailes’s dismay. Save for a nod to Fox News’s alleged deception over an infamous anti-Obama video from May 2012, Allen all but “Zevved up” the Sherman book. That is, he made it sound a lot like the very favorable Ailes biography that author Zev Chafets last year published with the network boss’s full cooperation.
To take a fair but highly critical book and make it seem like a hagiography is Allen’s mojo when it comes to Politico’s advertizing clients (including those whose sponsored content appears within Allen’s daily suck-up to power and money in Washington). But the Ailes-worship is close to pathological. Just read it all yourself and make up your own mind. But, to my mind, Wemple proceeds to cite case after case after case of fellatial coverage of Fox and Ailes from the perkiest team-player in the Washington Media-Corporate Village. Now, you might think that this is too easy. Selective pickings from Allen’s daily, lucrative plugs for the rich and powerful could find anything. But what makes Wemple’s pieces persuasive is that he also includes any examples he can also find of faintly-critical coverage. They’re there, but in such minuscule proportion to the relentless positive p.r. for Fox that they almost seem designed to bolster its credibility. And that’s why Allen’s disgracefully tardy response to this is so lame: