Thursday, November 3, 2016

Entertained by Sponsored Advertisements

Katelyn Lemen


Advertisements are becoming harder to identify. Online readers have become accustomed to banner and side bar ads. They’re learning how to ignore them. Advertisers realized this, and began new ways to get their content noticed. This is where the issue of sponsored ads comes to play.

What are Sponsored Ads?

Sponsored Advertisements are a marketing process to distribute content to a targeted audience. The ultimate goal is to get a viewer of this ad to purchase something. 

They hide these advertisements in editorial pieces. Companies will pay journalists to promote their products in the form of a news story. 

BuzzFeed is a prime example of a company that produces well-written sponsored advertisements. They constantly produce stories with sponsored motives. These ads are well disguised to readers because they are entertaining. Here is an example of a BuzzFeed article that was promoted by OxiClean. In the article, it hardly mentions OxiClean, but the pictures are targeted at people with messy kids and that would be consumers of OxiClean. 

Another example of possible sponsored advertisements are in the form of videos. BuzzFeed will post videos reviewing products, or just entertaining videos. An example of this is the “Dear Kitten” advertisement. 

In the ad, an older cat dispenses advice to a kitten. Halfway through the three-minute video, the cat praises Friskies wet cat food over the dry “dehydrated brown niblet.” That video was seen more than 20 million times and spawned a “Dear Kitten” series, which has over 59 million views.

Is this ethical?

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has developed an ethical code for branded content in hopes to help guide PR professionals when producing branded content. 

The first code mentioned, is to have disclosure. Make sure you label it as an advertisement, not an editorial. The codes also suggest to allow for reader comments and do not delete negative comments.

It is also mentioned that PR professionals should not let branded content replace earned media. Still produce stories that deserve publication. 

The next code is a no brainer for some. The PRSA says to keep content current and update it as information develops.

The final code says “respect the non-porous organizational divide — simply put, people on the news staff don’t write, edit or place branded content. That keeps the editorial folks focused on their true, professional news judgment.”

These are all good codes and tips in my opinion. The hardest part, in my opinion, is being accountable for fully disclosing sponsored content. Advertisers know that the audience won’t read or view content that is clearly labeled an advertisement. For now, I believe these advertisements will continue to subtly hint that they are advertisements. They will continue to make entertaining pieces that attract their target audience.

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