Native Advertising on Forbes Magazine Cover – Right Or Wrong?

Forbes Cover Page

Image: Forbes

As a consumer I am not a fan of so-called “native” advertising, which are basically advertising pieces that are dressed up to look like editorial content. It’s become a relatively prevalent practice on the web, and in print you’re used to seeing them as advertorials.

Side note: I’m not discussing In-Feed units, recommendation widgets,  paid search units, or any of the other “looks almost like the real thing except for the disclosure” forms of “native” advertising in this post.

No matter how we gussy it up, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that native advertising isn’t about creating a better experience for the reader (although we say it is) , it’s about creating more revenue streams (which we say it isn’t really) and creating adverts in the hopes that the reader doesn’t realize what they are consuming and takes it as a genuine editorial endorsement (no, no no nevah!).

You can put lipstick on a pig…

According to Ad Age, Forbes will run a cover on Monday includes native advertising, can you spot it in the image?

That’s right, it’s the black box on the right shilling for Fidelity, who purchased a two-page infographic in the publication and for what I can only assume is an obscene amount of money.

Forbes aren’t the first to do this. Time Inc., ran Verizon ads on the covers Time and Sports Illustrated last year, but they haven’t tried it again since. Despite this, undisclosed ads on the front of magazine covers remains a new phenomenon.

Mr. Mark Howard, Forbes Media’s chief revenue officer doesn’t see an issue with this:

The cover line doesn’t specifically state that it’s an advertisement. It does, however, include the term “FidelityVoice,” which is how Forbes marks its native ads — melding the advertiser’s name with the word “voice.”

Mr. Howard doesn’t think the cover line is misleading. “When you look at the color scheme and the box, it’s separated, it has a different background,” he said. “For readers of Forbes, they’ve known for four years that when you see FidelityVoice that that is content that’s coming from one of our partners.”

Mr. Howard might not see an issue with this but I do. Granted, the hardcore Forbes readers may recognize this as an advertisement, but the average person at an airport newsstand looking for something to read on their flight will not. Heck, Forbes gets delivered to my house every month and I wouldn’t immediately recognize it as an advert.

This brings to mind the FTCs 2009 guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials and how they affect bloggers. The entire point was to protect consumers (and I suppose search integrity) from fake reviews, essentially forcing bloggers to disclose their advertiser or product owner relationships so that consumers wouldn’t mistake advertorials from unscrupulous bloggers and advertisers with genuine reviews.

The FTC acknowledged in the document that traditional media doesn’t have to do the same thing for reviews because the expectation is different:

The Commission acknowledges that bloggers may be subject to different disclosure requirements than reviewers in traditional media. In general, under usual circumstances, the Commission does not consider reviews published in traditional media (i.e., where a newspaper, magazine, or television or radio station with independent editorial responsibility assigns an employee to review various products or services as part of his or her official duties, and then publishes those reviews) to be sponsored advertising messages. Accordingly, such reviews are not “endorsements” within the meaning of the Guides.Under these circumstances, the Commission believes, knowing whether the media entity that published the review paid for the item in question would not affect the weight consumers give to the reviewer’s statements.

Granted, this Fidelity advert is not a review, but it does fly in the face of the traditional expectations of magazine readers – which is NOT to find advertising on the front cover, especially advertising that is not marked as such.

What do you think? Did Forbes go a step too far?

Buy My Volvo – This Is How An Art Director Sells A Car

Fancy turning crank with a built-in safety bladder. Pelvis straps and an oblong chrome nipple! How could I resist?

If I were living in Malmö I might just consider parting with the 7000 Kronor ($1064) for this old Volvo with 5 previous owners.

Well done Castor. Advertising agencies and used-car salesmen need to take note!

Hat-tip: Mashable.

An Exercise In How Not To Sell Online Advertising Space

Angry Paul O'Flaherty

This was my “happy face” after the call.

If you sell anything, especially in the online advertising space, read the following and learn from it. Never make the mistakes this girl made, not even once!

A few weeks ago I had a woman representing a local TV news station call trying to sell my client advertising on their website. When I used the word “sell” in the previous sentence, what I actually meant was “shove it down my throat and force me to make an immediate decision on”. It was like being ear-raped by an angry woodpecker that keeps pecking the word “buy” until your inner ear explodes.

Lets get a few things straight here:

I am not going to part with many thousands of my clients’ dollars simply because you call and tell me that if I don’t buy it now it will be gone by the end of the day.

Telling me that you serve 2 million impressions a month, and then slipping in at the end of the pitch that our advert would be one of 7 rotating in the spot, does not a good pitch make. Pitching 2 million and delivering 285K impressions is not that impressive. It’s like waving a 4 inch wiener around at an orgy organized by John Holmes.

Those 285K impressions become even less impressive  when you consider that the space your pimping is only on the front page of the site. I don’t care how many impressions your site serves if the advert is only running on the front page. How many impressions does THAT page get? You know, the one where the advertising will actually appear! Oh, you can’t answer? How predictable!

Impressions mean nothing without context! I want to know, at the very least, the number of unique visitors and the geographic distribution of those visitors. But again, you can’t answer that. How freaking hard is it to say – “the page we want you to advertise on gets X number of unique visitors a month with 90% of those being in our target geographic area”?

I want to know if 50% of those “impressions” are actually being generated by one over-enthusiastic, pantsless fanboy sitting in his mother’s basement in Nebraska. Such information defines the value proposition of the potential advertising space. Don’t even get me started on demographics of the unique visitors from our target area.  How hard is this information to get? Here’s an answer for you – it’s not.

When I ask you to email me the information, because I’ll have an answer for you quicker that way (because you know, I’ve got absolutely nothing better to do than sit here and listen to your sales pitch over and over – which consists mostly of you talking over me until you get your way), and you tell me that you only send your email out at the end of the day (are you serious?) and you MIGHT send me one if the spaces aren’t taken!?!

Honestly, it would have been more polite to just tell me to “piss off” while we were on the phone – your armchair reverse-psychology isn’t going to work on anybody with an IQ above that of a glass of water.

There is no excuse for this level of incompetence when selling business-to-business.

There is no excuse for this level of incompetence and pushy arrogance, period.

Male Gamers Only?

Male Gamers OnlyI typically ignore ads that appear on my own blog. I’m almost blind to such ads, beyond checking for suitably, but this advert for Wartune (an online MMORPG that pays strong fealty to World Of Warcraft and it’s ilk) caught my attention.

Now, before you say “of course it caught your attention, look at those digital hooters”, let me say that it wasn’t the overly inflated digital mammary glands that caught my attention – It was the “Warning: Men Only” sign.  (I have a newborn son at home whom Sara is breastfeeding, so I have plenty of engorged boobies to occupy my eyesight.)

I’ve ranted at length about sexism in video games before, and how it adversely affects the impression that women have about the video game industry. Read Epic Upgrades? Women And Gaming if my point isn’t already clear enough.

One thing I haven’t discussed is the idea that what men want from video games is scantily clad women with physics defying bosoms and the voices that make them sound like they have a poor I.Q. for a glass of water.

That’s definitely not what I want from a video game, it’s off-putting, distracting and destroys any sense of realism. Maybe realism is the wrong word considering many games feature aliens, cyborgs and the ilk, but you know what I mean. I prefer games with more realistic physics, where you have to think and actually use skill – my obsession with Call of Duty and Borderlands being exceptions.

While a lot of disbelief can be suspended due to the setting of the game, the idea that men go into battle dressed in full Kevlar armor, while women go in dressed in a see-through lace negligée, a thong, knee-high boots, and proudly challenge their gravity defying breasts to spill out is a pill too difficult to swallow.

Is that really what men want? I suspect it’s maybe more to do with what boys in the 8 -15 years range want, but once we get older we enjoy games for the challenge, the story telling and the sense of engagement they provide. They’re a distraction that takes us away from our 9-5 jobs, our worries, our stresses. Video games provide us a few minutes reprieve where we can lose ourselves in another world free from the cares of this one.

That reprieve, that immersion, is what I (and I’m sure most adult males) want when we play video games. Strong female characters are awesome in games, we encourage them. They add to the realism, they deserve to be there just as much as male characters do. But when your strong female characters resemble bottle blonde bimbos that escaped from the Playboy mansion after Hugh Hefner went mad with a pump and silicon implant device, then it ruins it for those of us who think with the head that is located above the waist.

Facebook’s Cheap Ass Valentines Day Gift Suggestions

Facebook Valentines Day SuggestionI don’t know who set the pricing range on Facebook’s Valentines Day Gift suggestions, but I’m fairly sure that most people would find a last minute $5 gift card for Starbucks to be more offensive  than say… not getting them anything at all.

Try my logic on for size.

You know all those birthday wishes you get on your Facebook wall,  make you feel awesome and result in you overindulging on two bottles of vanilla vodka?

You know you only had those two bottles of vodka (and a bottle of rum) to drown out the realization that those people only wished you happy birthday because Facebook reminded them. They didn’t really remember…

You know that hurts, and it hurts bad… but at this point you’ve had 2 bottles of vodka, a bottle of rum, a 12 pack of Guinness and are being carted off to have your stomach pumped, so you don’t really give a crap right?  The hangover may help drown it out, but you’ll always know they didn’t really remember you…

It’s the same thing with Valentines Day. If your significant other has to be reminded by Facebook to get you a gift, and the best they can come up with is a $5 gift card for Starbucks, then, well… I’m not saying that it’s a red flag in your relationship, but some people really like waving red flags at bulls…

I suppose a $5 gift card isn’t the worst thing you could get for Valentines Day from your other half, I mean, they could always give you herpes, right?

Google Advertising Chromebooks on Chrome’s Most Visited Tab

I just spotted this advert for Chromebooks on the “Most visited” tab of one of my Google Chrome installations (v 24.01312.57 m).

Chrome Book advertising in Google Chrome

The advert didn’t appear on the laptop I have with me (same version number) and disappears from the open tab after about 2 minutes.

Considering I’m a  full-fledged citizen of the Google world (and an AdWords /AdSense user), it’s fair to say that their advertising usually doesn’t irk me. Most of my irritation with online advertising comes from poor design (which I’ve been / am guilty of) or overzealous use.

I know Google have advertised their own services and products in prominent places on their search engine and other products, but this is the first one that, despite it’s subtlety, I’ve actually felt to be slightly intrusive.

Not only does this advert feel intrusive, but it’s very sloppy. In the tab it talks about the “$249 laptop from Google”, which I will assume is the Samsung Chromebook, but the link actually goes to page for the $199 Acer Chromebook.

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the Acer Chromebook (we have 3 of them and the kids are never off of them) but I would probably be pimping the $199 dollar price in order to attract those who are more  fiscally responsible/constrained.

Samsung Galaxy Series – #TheNextBigThing

Disclosure: Sponsored Post

If you’re a geek like me, or simply not an American, then you probably didn’t watch the Super Bowl and didn’t get to see Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan team up to pitch ideas for advertising Samsung’s “Galaxy” line of products to Jon Fevreau (complete with another cameo that I won’t spoil for you).

So, is the Galaxy series the “next big thing”? I’ve got to say that I love the Galaxy line. I’ve yet to have serious issues with my reliable Galaxy S phone, which just keeps on working like a trooper no matter what I do to it, but just looking at that big S3 in the ad, with it’s 4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED screen and Jelly Bean makes me realize how badly I need/want to upgrade to newer hardware and away from the aging Froyo.

While I’ve got a lot of love for the Galaxy line, the question is do you think it’s the next big thing?

Click the vote button above to let us know, and then head over to twitter and tell us what you think the next big things is using the hashtag #nextbigthing.

Wait, What Debate? – Dr. Pepper Facebook Advert Ignites Evolution Debate

Via Mashable comes word of how the Dr. Pepper advert below set off a debate about evolution that, as I write this, has garnered over 24,319 likes, 2314 shares and more than 3,300 comments. Why? The advert, in no-subtle way, supports evolution – as well it should.

Dr Pepper set off a heated debate over evolution on Thursday after posting an advertisement to its Facebook page, which showed an ape evolving into a man thanks to the discovery of a can of Dr Pepper.

“My ancestors were created in the Garden of Eden,” one user posted in response to the advertisement. “I ain’t no freaking chimp. No more Dr Pepper for my household. God Bless y’all,” Another complained: “this is showing the theory of men evolving from apes. I have lost all respect for Dr Pepper and if Dr Pepper wants business from thousands of people they will need to apologize.” (Spellings have been corrected throughout.)

Others shot back, including a couple of commenters who posted, “The day your faith gets shaken by a Dr Pepper ad is the day you should probably start reconsidering your faith.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves –  There is no debate here.

All there is are those people, who as a result of poor education and/or willful ignorance, attempt to find god in the ever decreasing gaps of scientific knowledge. A gap in our scientific knowledge is not evidence for the existence of a deity, it is simply evidence that there is more we have yet to learn.

It must be depressing to have a world view where there is no joy, excitement and wonderment from the pursuit of knowledge, where you simply accept that everything exists because “god made it”. So sad.

Folks are free to have their religious beliefs, but at some point they must realize, that having those beliefs doesn’t mean they need to be and act willfully ignorant in the face of scientific theory.

Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

The contention that evolution should be taught as a “theory, not as a fact” confuses the common use of these words with the scientific use. In science, theories do not turn into facts through the accumulation of evidence. Rather, theories are the end points of science. They are understandings that develop from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection. They incorporate a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and logical inferences. In this sense, evolution is one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have.

Dr Pepper - Evolution of Flavor

Bad Choice of Words Automattic

WordPressIf you haven’t already heard users will soon be able to monetize their blogs as Automattic has formed an advertising partnership with Federated Media which they are pimping as WordAds.

No details have been released yet, so I can’t say how much of a cut Automattic will take or when the service will actually start running and bloggers will actually be able to start earning their few pennies a day.

One thing I can say however is that Jon Burke, who is the Ads Lead at Automattic and wrote the post announcing WordAds, needs to be separated from his keyboard and never allowed hit publish on a post again until someone more senior than him has read the post in advance.

The post, which was emailed to everyone with a account, opened with the following paragraph:

Over the years one of the most frequent requests on has been to allow bloggers to earn money from their blog through ads. We’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better than AdSense.

Well we think we’ve cracked it, and we’re calling it WordAds.

What I read there is a very unprofessional and unnecessary attack on Google. I personally don’t care what anybody thinks of AdSense or of Google and I don’t care what kind of gripe Jon may or may not have against Google or AdSense,but I have to think that somebody at Automattic must be shaking their head at that post and asking “WTF Jon?”.

In business you never know what the future may hold, who you’ll end up partnering with or for what reasons those partnerships may occur. As that future is always uncertain and in flux you never make a massive dig at another company simply because you can, or simply because you feel like it.

Whether Jon likes to believe it or not, in his professional capacity at Automattic he just declared that AdSense is shit and started throwing stones in a glass house.

There are a myriad of ways that Jon could have said that they are launching WordAds and that they think it is superior, or without even mentioning AdSense, and I’m shaking my head trying to figure out the reasoning behind Jon’s choice of words. He could have tried something like:

Over the years one of the most frequent requests on has been to allow bloggers to earn money from their blog through ads. We’ve resisted advertising so far because we couldn’t find a system that we felt was a good fit and would maximize revenue for our bloggers. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve the best.

Well we think we’ve cracked it, and we’re calling it WordAds.

See, wasn’t that simple? The same message and no petty, pithy swipes at a larger company who Automattic may need for a partnership or who knows what in the future.

You know what, it’s not even about future partnerships, it’s simply that it’s unprofessional and bad form. Then again, over the years I’ve spent so much time complaining about the bad and self entitled attitudes of many (not all) bloggers and how it makes all bloggers look unprofessional, that I shouldn’t be shocked to see this behavior coming from one of the standard bearing companies involved with the blogosphere.

I love WordPress and the work that Automattic do, and I’m hoping that Jon was just rushed and badly hung over when he wrote the post, instead of what the post would otherwise imply.