John Oliver has a a news and satire show Last Week Tonight on HBO that follows on from his popular segments on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. In this piece he asks some interesting questions and makes some valid points about 'native advertising' - ads that are camouflaged as editorial content. It is a practice that is becoming more common. Partly because people don't want to pay for their content (any more than they every did). So news gathering and reporting outlets are having to compromise to pay the bills and compete with newcomers like BuzzFeed that have no tradition of journalistic integrity or independence to preserve.
Oliver is unflinching. As he points out he can afford to be. HBO is a subscriber funded channel - so brands who want to reach their audience have to do it in other ways (like product placement in their shows - which isn't discussed in this item).
The point that is most important is whether consumers will, ultimately, backlash against this kind of subversion. Oliver's barb that 'deer aren't stupid' is a reference to this. Nothing spoils trust more than the realisation that you have been cheated or played for a fool.
I make my living from advertising but I realise it is a lot like fishing. If you treat your resource with disrespect then the catch will collapse. I've always felt that it is important that there is balance in the transaction between brand and consumer. If an ad has hyperbole to make an extravagant point then it should obviously be hypebole - not just some crazy claim. pretending to be a fact. When 'native' ads or content marketing are used to promote products where the facts are either sketchy or 'repurposed bovine waste' then nobody wins. Consumers will not only turn their backs on the advertiser and the media brand that provided cover and violated the trust that they have earned with the consumer - via a reputation for quality news and information - but they will also turn to social media (their own channels) to spread the word.
There has to be genuine value offered and received by brands who want to enter this space. Done well and transparently then everyone will be happy. Covert, creepy invasion is never a good way to start or maintain a relationship.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Last Week Tonight Website
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.