Last week there was a story online about an Apple delivery truck died in the middle of the street in Chicago and was blocking traffic. The street was one way and was causing huge backup which was delaying some other important city traffic, but an amazing neighbor who is now a local hero is being praised for their quick response because tow trucks could not get to the truck to help. The neighbor heard the shouts and immediately came out with a can of BP gasoline. He poured it in the gas tank and the car began moving which helped traffic resume and all deliveries was made for the day. Remember that article? Yeah, me neither, but it could be the start of a growing trend.
The Guardian, an online newspaper, announced last month that it was making a “branded content and innovation agency” which is partnered with Unilever (Kutsch, 2014). The Guardian is engaging in what is known as native advertising. Native advertising is a blurring of the lines of journalism and advertising. It’s essentially the print version of an infomercial.
What’s really blurring the lines here is that unlike traditional advertising, which uses outside companies to write and pay for ads, the ads are written by in house reporters who produce content for outside companies (Kutsch, 2014). This is a cause for concern because the lines between what an editorial are and what an advertisement are may be delineated only through the notifications that what you’re reading is an advertisement and those notifications are typically small or not as highlighted. For a profession which is supposed to be objective, they are now employees of the advertising business.
The reason for moving to native advertising is because news media sources are struggling to replace a decline in print with digital sales and while digital sales have risen, only about 12% of Americans and 9% of Brits say they’ve paid for digital news (Kutsch, 2014). Many companies and advertisers see native advertising as a more effective way to generate attention from online customers than through traditional banner advertisements (Kutsch, 2014). As long as the ads are clearly marked as ads, I can see these being effective and more fun to read, but if not then I could foresee lawsuits against many of these journalists or advertisers for purposely deceiving the general public.
The FTC, which usually regulates this type of stuff, is currently working on a policy for native advertising (Kutsch, 2014). However, until this is established, advertisers currently have free reign for this sort of business. This can be a boon for the consumer who will see typically objective professionals writing for advertisers who may not know their profession as well.
Here’s just one example of a type of native advertising:
(Image courtesy of adpulp.com)
How do you feel about this? Let me know in the comments!
Kutsch, T. (2014, March 08). The blurred lines of native advertising. AlJazeera America. Retrieved from http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/3/8/the-blurred-linesofanativeaadvertising.html