Ad agencies should be in front of content advertising, not afraid of it.

I love buzzfeed. I go to buzzfeed at least once a day. I am not alone.

The articles/posts on the site are what people want to read/laugh it/gain info from/share with others. They’re also tailored for the increasing number of people with decreasing attention span.

The key though, is that the site offers information (be it entertainment/news/pictures of cats) that readers are interested in and have a high probability of sharing. Admittedly, this isn’t very difficult. People like seeing pictures of puppies and read articles like “25 problems that desperately need to be solved”. This key is an invaluable tool to advertisers on the site. I’m not talking banner ads, I’ve talking the digital version of the print advertorial. Just as the goal of a print advertorial is to blend somewhat seamlessly in a publication, the sponsored content on buzzfeed aims to blend seamlessly with the content of the site.

 

Content/Native Advertising leader?

Content/Native Advertising leader?

 

For example, headlines for articles of interest would include “The 42 Best Moments Ever on Maury“, “21 Shirts That Shouldn’t Exist in Kid’s Sizes‘”, and “38 Things to Drink Instead of Booze“. These would all be articles written by buzzfeed staff and bloggers for your entertainment. There could also be another article of interest with the headline “20 reasons to remember to log out” or “19 Mindblowing Historical Doppelgangers“. These two articles provide entertainment (or day wasting) to individuals. Actual content that individuals would click on and read (and maybe even share). Both are sponsored by Virgin Mobile.

These two articles are just sponsored by Virgin Mobile (you can join the conversation at the provide hastag #breakfree, but there is no explicit offer for a product or service. Other sponsors will have interesting content geared toward a product or service. Some sponsors aren’t so good with the interesting content aspect.

So, there are advantages to using this platform of social advertising.

1) Your branded content is among content that readers will be interested in.

2) Ad advertiser can tailor their content.

3) High probability of being shared online.

Anyways, according to this article on Adweek by Lucia Moses, this type of advertising is growing and is bad news for ad agencies. I must say, I wholeheartedly disagree. This is the type of advertising that ad agencies should be getting in front of and becoming the masters as (instead of the online publishers).

Disconnect between brand representation and brand reality.

David Gianatasio wrote an article for adweek recently regarding how Allstate featured a home ravaged by hurricane Sandy in a commercial (to show how altruistic the company is) while simultaneously fighting the homeowners on claims that the house had been ravaged by floods.

The commercial is the second I’ve seen this year displaying a surreal display of irony (the first being Apple’s DND spot featuring Venus and Serena Williams).

Gianatasio articulates a real problem with advertising an aspect and portraying to the world that a company doesn’t always put it’s money where its mouth is like this:

It just underscores the fundamental disconnect between the ad-driven idealized representation of a brand and how said brand behaves, or is perceived to behave, in real life.

This disconnect. This disconnect is real for many agencies.

It’s a candidate on the campaign trail visiting homes for the blind for PR, yet slamming/defunding programs for the same individuals once elected. It’s beyond bait and switch.

I believe an agency shouldn’t advocate to a client that promoting how good the company is will help redefine the benevolent efforts in the eyes of consumers. Instead,  it may be better for an agency to compel their clients to genuinely change the mindset of the people working there, and provide genuine community service (that is not done purely for PR or advertising). That way, the brand’s presence will spread organically. Once the mindset of the company changes, it would be appropriate to advertise it (and genuine efforts should be advertised when the time is right).

An agency who can convince their clients to adapt to this way of thinking, I feel, will be more valuable as the true values of the brand will line up with the messaging in any ad. Instead of having a brand that can counter any altruistic message regarding their brand with real-life company practices.

And I think a company would appreciate an agency who tries to do this convincing.

It may be difficult to deal with a client who desperately wants to convey a sense of “giving back to the community” or “caring for the community”, when the mindset isn’t heartfelt. It can come off as phony (hurting the brand) or worse, be easily found out when the true colors of the company come to light.