Native advertising is meant to be veiled promotion, but an advertisement for a brain boosting supplement takes it to a new level of deception.
Advertising creeps. It slips into everyday things, then acts like it’s always been there.
Native advertisements blur the line between actual editorial content and advertisements. John Oliver offers a thorough (and hilarious) explanation:
I recently came across a native advertisement so blatantly deceptive, you wonder how it’s allowed.
The ad is for a brain boosting supplement called Cogniq. I first clicked on a “sponsored” link where no-less than Stephen Hawking stated this pill would change humanity. It took me to this page:
(Note, we cannot link directly to the page. It redirects).
As you can see, this page actually disguises itself as part of the CNN domain. It is not. It’s an advertising landing page.
The page proceeds – in complete editorial format – to explain how Hawking, Denzel Washington, Anderson Cooper, and Bill Gates all use this supplement to great success.
I admit, this ad is so well disguised it took a moment for me to realize it was fake – and I work in the advertising industry.
Of course when you think about, you realize that if Stephen Hawking was actually taking a smart pill, it would be huge news. It’s ludicrous. But when you see Wolf Blitzer in interview mode and famous people being quoted, it doesn’t occur to you that it’s a sales pitch.
Which is what they want. Links click to their sales page:
These guys are pros. This landing page has all the ingredients: urgency, call-to-action, trust labels, testimonials. facts/data, emotional pull, fear factor. All to support a promise that’s too good to be true.
How they get away with this? Forbes was a victim of this type of landing page ad (with almost exactly the same product), and got the runaround from the manufacture, saying their affiliates were responsible.
By the time any legal action can be taken, the company vanishes with profits from everyone they fooled.
In this case, it’s clear that the advertiser’s intent is to completely disguise the nature of this content. Eventually this may be regulated, but it’s hard to say when because the news agencies also make money off the ads.
The main defense from deceptive native advertising is consumer awareness. As the public gets exposed to more of this type of advertising, they recognize it for what it is. Pieces that are genuinely informative about legitimate products are fair advertising. Deceptive ads hiding their false value behind the appearance of a news piece will have a harder time tricking people.
In the Oliver piece, a Time Warner executive states that “Good native advertising is not meant to be trickery, it’s publishers sharing their storytelling tools with marketers.”
In the case of Cogniq, the advertiser stole those tools. Buyer beware.
This post originally appeared on Business Marketing 360®.