Friday, 7 November 2014


Can we tell what’s real or fake anymore? And even if we were to call something on the internet fake, somebody still paid for it, so it’s still very real. This is because what may look like news can actually be an advertisement! As HBO talk show host John Oliver puts it, “ads are baked into content like chocolate chips into a cookie, except, it’s actually more like raisins into a cookie because no one wants them there!” This is a rising form of advertisement known as “native advertising,” and John Oliver goes into great depth on the subject in his YouTube video below. It may be a bit lengthy, but it is a ‘must see’ in order to combat and understand some of today’s innovative marketing trends.

This video really sums up the growing confusion between credible editorials and typical, often silently ruthless, advertisements. It’s funny how the trend is changing; from making the viewer knowingly do less to making the viewer unknowingly do more - considering they would actually have to seek out the link/article content, read the entire article, and only later realise that they may have just been reading about a product or service. This is a point John Oliver made in the video, whereby viewers cannot actually tell the difference; that’s how integrated the marketing is getting. These advertorials are also found in internationally recognised news sources, such as the New York Times. But the real question is, do marketers for the companies that pay for and publish advertorials, really understand their viewers, or are they just desperately trying for further brand awareness? Alternatively, could it be a good thing that big businesses are now building connections between their brand name and actual news - like the link created between a new TV show about female inmates in America and real statistics about the current situation (as mentioned in the New York Times article John Oliver highlighted in the video above)?


Unfortunately, there are even websites that teach you how to copy real ones and turn them into a following over a real paying company and their official website.

The only upside I can see to this practice is that at least companies know exactly where their advertisements are getting placed on the internet; a subject that a group of us recently tackled in our Ethics and Regulatory Environment course during a presentation about advertising on pirated websites within Australia. Although there unfortunately isn’t enough legislation yet in place to protect company’s ads and reputation if found on illegal websites, they will now have to pay even more to advertise with this method. Either way, companies will be forced to come up with ways to reach new and larger groups of people for less.   

So, the next time you catch yourself  clicking on those popular shared links on Facebook, or searching for news updates that you don’t have to pay for or subscribe to, think again - you have probably found yourself on an advertorial website. Good luck trying to forget about it!

Christine Drpich
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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