Who Needs Native Advertising?

One of the biggest phrases of the year, at least in the world of marketing, has undoubtedly been Native Advertising. In fact it’s actually going to be the subject of my look ahead to 2014 at an IAB event tomorrow.

But now it seems that in the US the FTC is going to examine whether it might cross boundaries in terms of clearly marking paid for material as advertising. And in an effort to make it even more on trend for 2013 the session where this will happen is apparently going to be called Blurred Lines. Anyhoo….

I can’t help wondering however whether, from a brand’s point of view, this rush to native advertising (at least in terms of the version of it which consists of editorial content, as opposed to the original forms of native formats such as paid search ads or promoted tweets) isn’t a little premature. After all this week also saw Amazon prove, once again, that a good bit of PR will get you more coverage than you’ll know what to do with, even if it’s patently ridiculous.


I can only assume that Jeff Bezos has been taking notes from that other master of getting newspapers and otherwise serious people to believe absolutely ridiculous statements, Michael O’Leary of Ryanair. As David Mitchell put it in a recent column:

[Ryanair] was able to harness the awesome power of negative publicity. It could refuse to provide wheelchairs for disabled passengers, it could impose surcharges for the slightest infringements of its terms of travel, it could accept complaints only via a premium rate phone line, it could float the idea of offering pay-per-view porn films on flights…Negative publicity is always free and, as long as it didn’t seriously undermine any of the three pillars of cheapness, speed and safety, it did no appreciable harm.

O’Leary achieved this by saying things that were quite obviously incredibly unlikely, such as the fact that he wanted to charge passengers to use the toilets or that he wanted to get rid of seats, which the press and twitterati then swallowed wholesale and regurgitated endlessly, thereby providing him with millions of euros worth of free advertising, with no need for him to worry about whether the FTC thought it should have been labelled as paid for content.

With O’Leary apparently now determined to make customers love him, it seems that Jeff Bezos plans to steal his crown. As The Guardian’s James Ball pointed out in his article on the subject:

What Jeff Bezos announced amounted, essentially, to an aspiration to change how his company delivers products, in about five years time, if technology advances and regulation falls his way. If his TV appearance hadn’t included the magic word “drones”, Bezos’s vague aspirations to change an aspect of his company’s logistics probably wouldn’t have made waves. Lucky for him, he did – winning his company positive publicity just ahead of what is usually the biggest online shopping day of the year, the dreadfully named Cyber Monday…Floating an exciting-but-impractical innovation for a swath of press coverage is such an old PR tactic you’d hope no one would fall for it, and yet everyone still does.

And indeed, everyone still does. The article directly below Ball’s? One entitled:

From Amazon to kebabs: 10 things you need to know about consumer drones

Why does that ring a bell I wonder?


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