Can publishers just say no to misleading advertisers?
I was clicking around through news sites this morning and stumbled upon Examiner.com.
A headline about Acai berry on the side navigation caught my attention. I drink Acai juice from time to time and when the headline screams, “Want to use Acai Berry..You’ll be SHOCKED what we found”, I decided to check it out to see if research now shows that Acai berries are bad for you.
When I clicked the link, I was brought to what seems to be the news site of the local news channel. The site is news6daily.tv, and the “report” / “article” was evidently posted this week and geographically from Wakefield, RI. So my initial reaction was that this must be a local Providence TV network web site (ABC, NBC, CBS, or FOX).
The gist of the “journalists” intrepid story is as follows:
“I was skeptical about all the rave reviews Acai pills have been receiving for weight loss, so I decided to try it myself and shocker of all shockers, it actually works. After 4 weeks I’ve successfully lost 25 pounds. Oh, and here’s the brand I used. The manufacturer let us put a free sample coupon on our site. They’re great!”
When I tried to click on one of the top Navigation items, such as Business, Home, Sports, I was redirected to the same Acai article. It was only then that I realized this “article” is actually an advertisement made to look like real news.
That’s when I realized that the date on the story page is probably always updated to display today’s date, and the location is probably coded to display whatever location the end user comes from (via their IP address). In my case, my ISP is in Wakefield Rhode Island. Hence the story “location” is Wakefield.
Now, I give all this detail and background to ask both the advertising industry and the publishing industry whether supporting misleading advertising is in our long term collective best interest?
In the short term, cash is cash, and Examiner.com is willing to take money from an advertiser that will pay up. Actually, upon further review, Examiner.com is a content farm, cranking out articles to attract audience to maximize the number of targeted ads they can place next to those articles.
I’m not sure who is serving up the Acai ad, because every time I refresh the page it seems like Examiner.com changes who is serving their ads (e.g. btrll.com, videoegg, Pulse360, etc). I assume Acai Optimum (a subsidiary of Nutrition Craze), the company mentioned by the fake journalist, is the advertiser. Not sure who their agency is, and whether there was a “creative” meeting between brand and agency that determined that the best “digital media” idea would be to create a fake news site and buy ad space to drive traffic to the fake news site. I do know the end goal is to get people to register to receive a free trial.
Below is the free trial page users are funneled to:
I reached out to Acai Optimum, the company mentioned in the article that was “nice enough to give our readers a free trial of their amazing product”, to see if they are indeed behind the fake news site with the fake article from a fake journalist who initially expresses fake skepticism about the miracles of Acai pills but is then won over after a fake 4 week experiment, during which time she loses a fake 25 pounds.
We’ll see what they say…
So do publishers (even content farms), advertisers, technology enablers (ad serving platforms) bear any responsibility to the public, or the good name of their respective industries, to self police and ban totally misleading advertising or, in this case, an ad that brings the reader to a fake news page which is really just a giant advertorial disguised as a real breaking news story?!?
I don’t know the answer, but if I never really clicked on ads before, this certainly makes me less interested in clicking than ever…which probably explains why the ads themselves look more and more like side navigation “related story” headlines than ads…so people think they’re clicking on another story, not an ad.