The LA Times got itself in some hot water last week, not once, but twice, for passing off advertising as news.
On Thursday, it ran a mock news article promoting NBC’s Southland on the front page:
View PDF version from the Wall Street Journal
Passing off advertising as content has been done before. We discussed a far more clever execution last year when AMC bought several pages and the cover of Ad Age to promote its Mad Men series last summer.
Is it smart?
The fact is passing off advertising as content is seldom this brazen, but it is common. There’s good reason to do it: nobody watches TV, listens to the radio or reads a newspaper for the ads. They are there for the content.
This is one way to slip advertising past the consumer before they change the channel, turn the page or boop it forward on the TiVO.
Geneva Overholser, director of the school of journalism at the USC, called the ad “deeply offensive,” and went on to say—
Readers don’t want to be fooled, they don’t like the notion that someone is attempting to deceive them. This breaks perhaps the most important bond that newspapers have with their readers, which, to me, is a bond of trust.
So what do you think?
Is passing off advertising as content deceptive and to be avoided or smart and to be applauded?
Comment below to weigh in.