Posts Tagged ‘Native advertising’
- Content is the future of public relations—but do we really want to enter such a “shitty business?”
- Content is the best way to reach the audiences our clients value most—but we can’t follow the media industry “over the cliff”
- Our core competencies are in storytelling and earned media, and we should “think like editors”—but we have to demonstrate real-world value to our clients or we’re toast.
The Council of PR Firms‘ 2013 “Content Frenzy” Critical Issues Forum was nothing if not contentious. During the event’s opening panel moderated by Ogilvy CEO Chris Graves, BuzzMachine founder/media critic Jeff Jarvis and WebbMedia Group CEO Amy Webb encouraged attendees to forget everything they thought they knew about “content” and stop trying to view PR as the new journalism, because:
— PRNewser (@PRNewser) October 24, 2013
His point? PR is all about “relationships”, not “creating more crappy content”, so we should stay away. And he didn’t let up.
Do these kids even know the difference between “ad” and “editorial?”
Regulators at the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (which operates under the Council of Better Business Bureaus) have heard PR and marketing talking a big game about “content”, but they aren’t sure exactly where to draw the line between “paid promotion” and “editorial”. In other words, they think your latest sponsored post looks suspiciously out of place, so they might just have to give it the once-over.
Should you be worried?
The chorus has spoken: brands who don’t jump on the sponsored content train are destined for the banner ad dustbin.
But is it true? David Carr of The New York Times isn’t so sure. Joe McCamby—a designer who created the very first banner ad in 1994 when MTV still played Nirvana videos and Facebook was the name of your high school art project—thinks the increasingly grey line between journalism and advertising could end up hurting publishers and, by extension, the brands that hire them.
The problem, as McCamby sees it, lies in publishers allowing PR and marketing agencies to post directly to their sites through their own content management systems. He thinks readers will question the origins and accuracy of every editorial piece in a given publication once they discover that said mag/website is in the sponsored content game. Those readers, he implies, wouldn’t find much value in sponsored content in the first place, and it can soil their opinions of their favorite magazines and websites.
How true is that fear?
How does one go about making sponsored content that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb? A few bold publishers are answering that question by turning to their own in-house editorial teams to get the job done.
Mashable has been writing posts for sponsors for some time, but Ad Age points out a more interesting case study: Mental Floss founder Mangesh Hattikudur’s U.S. Open live-blog/trivia session post, sponsored by IBM.
Hattikudur notes that IBM did not approve the content before publishing—and he’d planned to cover the event regardless.
The point is that content created by a publisher’s editorial staff will feel more authentic and therefore bring more value to the sponsor as readers grow increasingly skeptical of advertorials.
So, last week we took the time to lecture our readers on the nature of native advertising–and this week’s biggest media “scandal” conveniently gives us an opportunity to show everyone how not to do it.
In summary: Established magazine The Atlantic, long a home to respectable journalism, ran a sponsored post that was little more than an official release from the Church of Scientology.
The church is scrambling to get some good press before journalist Lawrence Wright‘s upcoming expose Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief hits the nation’s bookstores and e-readers. The post itself amounted to a comical report about how leader David Miscavige has helped the church expand its membership; it included little beyond (obviously staged) photos documenting the recent openings of Scientology “centers” around the world.
And that’s not all: The Atlantic also carefully monitored the story’s comments section, erasing many of the (overwhelmingly negative) comments from users before closing them down altogether. Bad move, guys.
Now it’s damage control time!
Native advertising: you’ve heard the term, and you’re going to hear it quite often in the months ahead. We haven’t directly addressed it on this blog yet, so here goes:
First: any web surfer will tell you that banner ads (aka “traditional paid media”) are on the way out. They do provide “impressions” or glances, but very few people actually click them.
A debate on the topic within the PR industry has all but resolved itself at this point: integrated or “native” spots created through “brand journalism” are part of the PR/marketing landscape along with “sponsored” tweets and the like. They’re here to stay, and PR teams need to start creating more of them ASAP or they’ll find themselves replaced by other third-party content creators and media buyers. (Here’s a great post on the issue from our friends at Spin Sucks.)
Right. But what does “native” mean, exactly? Well, this Mashable infographic made our heads hurt, so we’ll give you a better example: Check out The Awl, a sort of literary/culture blog that happens to be one of our favorite web destinations. Scroll down the page a bit and you’ll come across at least one post that looks slightly different than the rest (they’re usually hosted on a grey background and filed under the “sponsored stories” heading).
These are stories commissioned and created by brands like Pillsbury, HBO, Samsung, and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. These brands (and the firms that represent them) want to court members of The Awl’s audience, and they came up with a good way to do so: create original content that complements the site’s existing stories.
It’s fairly simple, really: