How Native Advertising is Tricking You

Native advertising is crap
Native advertising is crap

I started my career as a journalist. Warren Rogers, my editor and a well-known Washington D.C reporter, created a literal wall between the Georgetown Courier’s editorial department and the advertising team… it was wooden and about 4 feet tall. He taught me the importance of not having editorial pander to the needs of advertising. No lofty reviews of restaurants that took full-page ads out in our newspaper.

Sure the newspaper folded in about 6 months. And sure I now work in advertising. I still have a pet peeve about “native advertising,” which is basically advertisements that masquerade as content. You’ve seen them:

  • An apparent news story on a website that’s actually an ad for some diet product
  • A section of a magazine that, on closer inspection, is actually “advertorial” content (sponsored)
  • A tweet or Facebook post that’s paid content even though it’s designed to look like a post from a friend

We need to know when a commercial interest is impacting our news or entertainment. And it’s not often obvious. I don’t like search-engine results that are ads pretending to be organic. I don’t like product placement without credit/transparency. And I don’t like hitting a news website expecting to read an article, but it’s a poorly veiled attempt to pitch some crap.

Ads can do their job even when we know they’re ads. But news and entertainment cannot do their jobs when we have to worry about whether they’re ads or not.

So I took some pleasure in John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) absolutely ripping “native advertising” a second asshole. Enjoy…

Coca Cola and Google/YouTube to Publish Video ROI Study

Coke and Google are soon to publish ROI data on a campaign in Germany that includes online video. The study isolates individuals who were not exposed to television but did see YouTube promotion, and reports incremental consumption data by various digital channels. Paid search leads, of course, and YouTube ranks high (far above banners, which showed almost no impact… and outdoor advertising).

Jens Monsees, who heads consumer goods and healthcare at Google in Spain, teased the audience with info, but results are to be published jointly by Coke and Google. Monsees was speaking at’s “Digital Pharma Europe” in Barcelona today.

It’s about time we had a marketing mix study that includes online video, and I look forward to seeing the details. BTW- the average YouTube viewer is 31 years old.

EepyBird Creates New Genre of Hyper Syndication?

The EepyBird duo shows that if you have enough talent, you can move seamlessly from one major promotion to another — without anything particularly unique between. Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz are the mad scientists behind EepyBird, a physical theater company exploring how everyday objects can do extraordinary things. They’re the Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods of online video, only they don’t play sports. And they have apparently had 40 million views on their Coke and Mentos experiment, but fewer than 300 subscribers on YouTube (the duo used Revver initially).

Here’s the latest promotion by the performance artists in a sticky-note experiment (not Post-It, mind you). Sponsored by ABC Family, Office Max and Coca-Cola, “The Extreme Sticky Note Experiments” will appear on ABC’s Samurai, and was arranged by social marketing agency, DigiSynd.

Said a press release by DigiSynd:

By packaging EepyBird’s new experiment, social marketing agency DigiSynd has created a new genre of hyper syndication — capturing the excitement and the power of original content viral video and bringing it to mainstream entertainment marketing, while maintaining the innovation and integrity that makes a video viral.

A new genre of hyper syndication? Where do I sign up for that?

Parenthetically, I have my own story about sticky-notes. In my first marketing role ever I was asked to lead marketing for Georgetown University’s Program Board. The group brought to campus such acts as The Kinks and Adam Sandler ‘n David Spade. (As a side bar to this parenthetical comment, Spade, Sandler and I had dinner at UNOs, and Sandler leaned out of my white Honda Accord and screamed impersonations of his Cajun Man. People thought he was a cheesy fake, but it was the real cajun man. Spade was sick and a bit sarcastic, but Sandler was really cool and gave us some behind-the-scenes of SNL because they were bit characters then.

Where was I? Oh-sticky notes. I once ordered sticky notes to promote the Georgetown Program Board (GPB), and it featured the GPB Nun… (an illustration by Dave Hagen of a GU bulldog dressed as a nun… you know, the dean who is now GU’s president eventually made the group  change the mascot to the GPB Jesuit because he didn’t like the idea of a transgender bulldog). Anyway, I cheaped out with a fake version of Post-It notes to save money, and the darned things didn’t stick to anything. So that’s my point.

Hey that reminds me… I met my friend Justin because he volunteered to hand out fliers for a pig roast GPB was holding. He’d walk up to women on campus and scream, “PIG,” before handing them the invitation. Man that was funny stuff. I once convinced Justin to ride a moped naked in the rain with nothing but a batman mask on. Missy Gold went to Georgetown… I wonder if I still have some footage of her walking across campus. She and I never met, nor did I hang with Dikembe Mutombo (but I did see him a couple years ago at a reunion, and called him Patrick Ewing “by mistake.” He laughed and corrected me very gracefully).

Hey that reminds me… I did a voiceover for a film by classmate Breck Eisner (Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s son), but he stopped returning my calls long ago so don’t try to use me to get to him. Is he still making commercials and movies? I wonder if I still have a copy of that weird video he made- I always warned him I’d be pawning it to The National Enquirer when he became famous. Who’s going to clean up all the names I’ve dropped in one post?

Every once in a while you have to remind readers that this is, after all, a blog. And bloggers are entitled to off-topic memoirs.