An extremely thought-provoking article appeared in The Guardian this week, written by the advertising analyst, Bob Garfield. Via a rather delicious Faustian metaphor, he accuses the publishing industry of selling its soul in its acceptance - possibly even its celebration - of native advertising: sponsored content which serves a brand agenda masquerading as editorially created copy. Or, as Fleet Street's finest used to call it, advertorial.
We'll not explore the ethics of native advertising here. Bob Garfield makes a tremendously compelling case, so compelling in fact that Dr Paul Marsden of Digital Intelligence Today sums up his argument as "native advertising is evil". Certainly, there's a sizeable wolf-in-sheeps-clothing hue to the whole practice, a tacit industry understanding that most advertising is so grubby every possible measure should be taken to ensure that the public doesn't recognise an ad as an ad.
Which seems thoroughly barking to me.
If you're worried that the public will find your adverts underhand or conniving, surely the answer isn't to disguise them as something fluffier. The answer is to make them less underhand and less conniving. To do that, you need to address two fundamental problems with just about all advertising, branding and marketing today: