How Native Advertising is Tricking You

Native Advertising is evil, and John Oliver grills it in this comedy routine

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…

Alka Seltzer Viral Campaign Taps YouTube Weblebrities, Cewebrities

Rhett and Link’s Alka Seltzer road show (see previous post) hit Philadelphia recently, and it didn’t take them asking more than once to convince me and a bunch of YouTube Cewebrities to hit Pat and Gino’s to appear in this video. I picked up CharlesTrippy, ShayCarl, TheMightyThor1212 and those gals to stop by before the YoTube events. We did it for fun not profit, but Rhett and Link were classy enough to feed us, and even send us off with beer money for that night (thanks, guys).

Favorite moment? The nervous look on the face of the agency account manager as she reluctantly handed me a Speedy statue. Don’t worry, agency lady. I’ll behave with him.

Admitting my bias, I’m still putting this promotion down as one of the top three smartest viral video campaigns of 2008. It joins the ranks of BMW’s Rampenfest and Diet Dr. Pepper’s Cherry Coke promotion of TayZonday.

It’s funny, entertaining, balanced well (promotion is subtle), it’s leveraging the charasmatic appeal of two video stars who have been provided creative control of the series. Rhett and Link give us a perfect example of advertising content that is first entertaining. And the branding finds a happy medium between, on one extreme, dominating the video, and on the other relegating itself to ignored pop-ups or lost entirely. The topics are related to food, the tone revitalizes an otherwise stale brand, and Alka Seltzer’s differentiator (the plop, fizz) is not lost. Bringing back Speedy was brilliant too.

The only thing I’d say about all three of these campaigns is that they probably could have been done more cost effectively. Diet Dr. Pepper got TayZonday for a song, but had some production overhead (it was also hampered by the reality that the drink tastes like the smell of a chocolate scratch and sniff, and that’s coming from a hardcore Diet Dr. Pepper guy).

The Alka Seltzer road show was fairly shoestring for television and advertising rackets, but still could be leaner (do you need 5 or more people beyond Rhett and Link at the shoot?). I don’t know about Rampenfest, but it looks very, very expensive (guessing $500-$1,000 MM).

 

 

Naltsgetsfit Hits First Milestone. Ready for Diet/Health/Fitness Sponsor.

picture-11.pngI launched that March 19 NaltsGetsFit video (yes, the shirtless one) before YouTube’s maintenance problem started minutes ago. Here’s the thumbnail, which populated on my channel page. But the video (despite having 150 views) isn’t appearing in classic YouTube fashion. So I made it, ChristopherMast. You?

I’m ready for a health/diet/fitness sponsor, now. Get me to visible improvement by May 12! Something credible that actually works, please. Maybe take it bigger than one person- get a bunch of us on board to journey our road to healthier living.

May 12 (my bday) is my new fitness milestone. I’m going to feel comfortable while shirtless at the pool this spring and summer… for the first time ever.

… Unlike the look of torture I showed tonight as I revealed my killer abs (buried beneath a remaining Stromboli of cottage cheese).

P.S. Hi, Marilyn.