As PR-led campaigns increasingly blend tactics such as paid media, native advertising bears watching.
I called out the genre last month suggesting most of it should be called “alien advertising.” Still, with the rules of the game being invented on-the-fly, we’re seeing fresh wrinkles like this native advertising campaign by Ryder in TIME Magazine.
Now compare the Ryder native ad with a standard article in TIME.
Yes, the native ad carries the obligatory line that Ryder is behind the content. TIME also distinguishes editorial with a byline.
With that said, a percentage of readers will no doubt mistake the Ryder native ad as an article penned by a TIME journalist. The headlines for both the native ad and editorial not only use the same typeface, but the weight and point size are the same. And while the typeface for the body copy differs – sans serif for the native ad and serif for editorial, it’s a subtle difference easily missed by the reader.
Does TIME try to fool the reader?
One could make a decent argument to check the “Yes” box.
But things get more interesting in how TIME pushes out the Ryder content. Rather than just depend on the TIME publishing platform, the media property’s native ad “package” also includes a sponsored content push on social platforms like LinkedIn.Even as a student of media, this caused me to do a double take.
Many readers are going to see the TIME masthead and the “TIME Magazine” name followed by “Sponsored” and interpret that as TIME using a paid channel to push its own stories.
Regardless, it shows a certain amount of moxie on TIME’s part to play off its brand cachet to increase clicks to the Ryder native ad, which generates more revenue for TIME.
In short, people will value a story from TIME Magazine more than a story from Ryder.
Of course, that’s not what’s on the other end of the click.
Side note: More posts on the topic can be found at “Native Advertising Isn’t the Only Paid Content Blurring the Line of Journalism” and “When It’s OK For Native Advertising to Fool the Reader.”