Equally, we can sometimes see the dangers in certain business strategies when they scandalize the perpetrators in other contexts. One hopes the experiences of Wells Fargo, VW, Samsung and the Republican Party offer some lessons for, say, pharma, insurance, airlines and the Republican Party.
But the example I speak of is from the cable “news” industry.
You have no doubt by now learned that CNN “commentator” Donna Brazile resigned in disgrace after getting caught leaking debate questions to the Hillary Clinton campaign, abusing her access to CNN's inner sanctum to benefit her party.
So utterly gross, and so utterly unsurprising. Because she has an absolutely disqualifying conflict of interest. Because, duh, she's a mouthpiece for a political institution. And therefore had no business in the sanctum to begin with.
For CNN to air Democratic insiders like Brazile, David Axelrod, and Trump proxies Cory Lewandowski and Jeffrey Lord is (to coin an adjective) deplorable. They are not commentators. They are shills, offering none of the insight, context, informed opinion or even insider knowledge the audience has the right to expect from opinion journalists. Rather, they are destined to say only -- only, only, only -- what they deem beneficial to their candidate or party.
Which makes them useless, and which makes CNN a nightly purveyor of consumer deception.
They present these people as purveyors of journalistic commentary, but they are nothing but spokespersons. Can it really be possible that Jeffrey Zucker was populating his panels with the chair of the Democratic National Committee? Sadly, yes.
And you see what came of it. Disgrace -- and yet another blow to what remains of CNN’s reputation as a news organization.
If you're in advertising and publishing, don’t cluck too loudly. Because the scandalous behavior I have described is a direct parallel to scandalous behavior your organization most likely has enthusiastically embraced: native advertising, which depends on an identical sort of switcheroo. It's “content,” designed to blend in with surrounding editorial content -- only it's created for or by an advertiser to put its best foot forward.
Apologists for native, even from this very publisher, continue to elide over the obvious deceptiveness by:
1) cherry-picking research findings in studies commissioned by interested parties:
A 2016 IPG/Forbes/Newhouse study... found that 22% of people perceive native advertising as intended to educate, versus only 4% seeing banner ads as teachable moments…….the IPG/Forbes/Newhouse study found even higher rates of recall for branded content than in IPG's original study with Sharethrough in 2013.
2) failing to reconcile the irreconcilable:
They trust it: When native content is clearly labeled and seen as quality content, consumers report higher trust in the brand. This is according to a study conducted by Contently last year. Interestingly, consumers report less trust of “branded content” overall, with a loss in credibility for the source — but when presented with quality branded content, the impact is more positive.
Except, when native content is clearly labeled (and it seldom is ) consumers don’t click on it...because it is advertising. And research from non-interested parties shows that when they realize they've been duped, they get hopping mad.
So, yeah. IPG, Forbes, Contently and Sharethrough want you to think this desperate, fundamentally dishonest niche is some sort of consumer benefit -- just as Jeff Zucker wanted to pawn off a bunch of shills as commentators. There will come a reckoning, but it won’t be brought to you by Wikileaks,
It will be brought to you by the FTC.