Beware The Native Of Brazile

At the recently convened Media Future Summit, I admonished the (mainly) CEO attendees to pay close attention to the comments and experience of their fellow delegates -- although they may run entirely different kinds of businesses. For instance, maybe, theoretically, Domino's could learn more from Uber than from Pizza Hut. (Adding meat and cheese does not qualify as innovation.)

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.

14 comments about "Beware The Native Of Brazile".
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  1. pj bednarski from Media business freelancer, November 7, 2016 at 9:37 a.m.

    Before all news channels, a news organization would need to find a close-to-the-Democratic-Party voice and send a crew, to get comment, or put her on live, ala Ted Koppel's Nightline. But because "news" goes on and on and on, on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, news execs need to nail their experts to the floor because they're gonna be there three hours not three or 30 minutes. Paid Consultancy does the trick. 
    That's show biz!
    We now have more ways to be misinformed than ever, and it's paying off 

  2. Jim Sterne from Target Marketing, November 7, 2016 at 11:51 a.m.

    Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.

    George Orwell

  3. Michael Blumfield from Michael Blumfield Business Communications, November 7, 2016 at 11:57 a.m.

    Lewandowski and Lord (and the godawful Kayleigh McEnenany) add nothing to the conversation. But Axelrod is in a different category, as are David Gergen and Paul Begala. I do think we gain some insights into the political process from them. While they're partisan, they're far less acrimonious and far more knowledgeable than most of the rest of CNN's group of commentators.

    But point taken. Actual journalists discussing the issues and the campaigns should constitute the bulk of the coverage, not political hacks.

  4. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC replied, November 7, 2016 at 12:02 p.m.

    Cute quote, but I think it misses the point. Great journalism is having the skills, integrity, latitude, commitment and financial support to get the story right, regardless of where it leads. Entertainment journalism worships only ratings, which is how an ethically-vacant media manipulator like D. Trump beat the GOP.

  5. Mara Einstein from Black Ops Advertising (Author), November 7, 2016 at 12:09 p.m.

    I made similar comments about the Newhouse research in reponse to the MediaPost article "Why Native Advertising is Great Advertising." You might be interested in those.

  6. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, November 7, 2016 at 12:20 p.m.

    Bob, this makes me wonder which of the many cable TV "surrogates" we will ever see again, once this debacle of an election is over?  Some, including Axelrod, Gergen and even Brazile, are long-time players and will be back, but I can't imagine any future GOP candidate would allow themselves to be represented by the Trump platoons of truth-challenged gals and goons.

  7. Michelle Amazeen from Boston University, November 7, 2016 at 12:32 p.m.

    If you haven't already seen it, in today's Mediator column, Jim Rutenberg writes, "The internet-borne forces that are eating away at print advertising are enabling a host of faux-journalistic players to pollute the democracy with dangerously fake news items." I wonder how he squares this with his employer's TBrand Studio partnership?

  8. David Rodnitzky from 3Q Digital, November 7, 2016 at 12:51 p.m.

    Bob, I wrote about this and concluded that native advertising has become 'too big to fail':

    "At the end of the day, I can’t help looking at native advertising and thinking about the classic film noirmovie, Chinatown (note: if you haven’t seen the movie and someday plan to, you may not want to read the next paragraph).

    Chinatown’s premise is simple: the world is unfair, the powerful win, and fighting the system is a waste of time. If you want to succeed, accept these truths and accept your place in the system.

    It’s a dark and cynical worldview to be sure, but it seems relevant here. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: set up your native advertising campaigns today! Forget it, Jake, it’s the internet (video autoplay)."

  9. Jerry Gibbons from Gibbons Advice replied, November 7, 2016 at 12:55 p.m.

    Is this Native Advertising?

  10. Brian Kelly from brian brands, November 7, 2016 at 1:36 p.m.

    They are all nativists/shills: both Democratic and Republican.  Let's not be so "holier than thou".  CNN, and the rest, have hours to fill with fresh content to drive viewers.  It's all crap.

    What Trump capitaized upon was an under served market.  Whether it be marketing to a gender or a race, Trump was marketing to another under served market.  (see C. Murray)

    After all who goes to J-school?  Not many conservatives as they tend to finance or economics.  So it amounts to a self fulfilling prophecy that the "media" are liberal.  For many in MARCOM, this MSM content is relevant to them.  For those away from the media centers, the major urban centers in the US, the content isn't as relevant.  Fair and balanced are relative terms.

    Native advertising is a new revenue stream for a failing industry that is reliant upon advertising to fuel the business model aka c-suite execs and rockstar/celebrity journalists salaries.

    Face it, advertising is creepy (native or not) in part due to its omni-presence.  No one has ever really wanted it (bathroom break?).  Now the over abundance of content, has in fact made the content creepy too.

  11. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 7, 2016 at 2:52 p.m.

    Brazile is the tip of the iceberg. According to a Wikileaks email released yesterday, John Harwood (a journalist for CNBC and The New York Times) asked Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta for help with an upcoming interview of Jeb Bush: The actual email subject line was , “what should I ask Jeb…” (You'd think Jeb would be outraged at the Democrats and the media for such betrayal, but he'll likely vote for Hillary tomorrow.)

  12. Garrett Donaldson from JKR Advertising & Marketing, November 7, 2016 at 3:14 p.m.

    There are probably few political issues Bob & I might argee upon, but his criticism of CNN and his analogy of it to native advertising are inarguable.

    When publishers and broadcasters go back to worrying about editorial and programming, and advertisers go back to worrying about advertising — the reader, listener, watcher and buyer  (AKA the market) can stop worrying about whether all this is …”a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of two mockeries of a sham." Woody Allen / Bananas

  13. Chuck Lantz from, network, November 7, 2016 at 5:35 p.m.

    As long as we all continue to rate the validity of cable news outlets such as CNN using basic viewership totals, we should be careful about condemning their methods for getting those numbers.  Booking a Donna Brazile or an Ann Coulter isn't done to be objective, but rather to gain ratings. 

  14. Michelle Amazeen from Boston University, March 2, 2017 at 11:56 a.m.

    More independent evidence supporting Bob's concerns about native advertising:

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