Sunday, May 29, 2016

“Native Advertising” 1: Dissembling for Dollars

You may or may not know by now that you're being subjected to something called "native advertising" when you read something on line. Here's the industry definition: 

                    "Native advertising is the process of using content to build 
                     trust and engagement with new prospects through paid 
                     channels. The difference between native advertising and 
                     traditional display advertising is that native ads will sit 
                     within the natural 'flow' of content on a social media 
                     platform or online publication."

And bank robbing is a form of engagement with bank tellers and Ponzi scheme promoters are really good at building trust. Except for being dead and in prison, respectively, Willie Sutton and Bernie Madoff could be the new Thought Leaders for native advertising. The typographic emphasis above is mine, but the words are industry canon. 

C’mon, folks; stripped of the pious wording, it’s a way of camouflaging sales pitches to look like objective information. Deception is inherent. Baked in. A feature, not a bug. ”Non-deceptive native ad” would be an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. A non-deceptive native ad becomes a conventional display ad, and display advertising is still available most places. Why are marketers not just using that? Maybe because they want to deceive readers about the origin of a story praising their product? You think?  

Publications used to go to some trouble to avoid letting promotional material be confused with editorial. The vehicle for doing that was the advertorial, labeled and formatted to make it unmistakably advertising. The name alone alerted you: ADVERtorial. It would also further be distinguished from the host publication’s editorial matter by being formatted in a different  typeface. But that’s changed.   Paid promotional material today “sits within the natural flow" of the content.  

There are some rules, with which the FTC attempts the patently contradictory and probably impossible task of making native advertising not deceptive, and which will be evaded, ingeniously or blatantly, as marketing people test the limits. That brings up the case of the Lord & Taylor campaign, to be discussed in the next post here.