I know there have been some instances of highly deceptive practices by companies posting fake review on Yelp, for example. But, I was truly stunned by a recent New York Times column that decried a native advertising program by Shape Magazine and take a look at the full-page ad that sparked such a sensation. It’s entitled, ‘Water works!’
The ad speaks to the health benefits of staying hydrated throughout the day, but it also identifies a problem: 20 percent of Americans don’t like the taste of water. The solution? Four varieties of Shape Water Boosters: Beauty, Wellness, Slim and Energy, guaranteed to make your water more tasty.
The National Advertising Division, the investigative arm of the ad industry’s voluntary regulation system, came down hard on Shape, saying the ad ‘blurred the lines between advertising and editorial content in a way which could confuse consumers.’
To which I respond, gimme a break. While the page may indeed be headlined: ‘Live Healthy News,’ it’s clearly an ad. In fact, the accompanying photograph could be used to adorn the cover of a college textbook on the subject of advertising. It’s that obvious.
I admire the efforts of such groups as the Federal Trade Commission, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and the National Advertising Division. But, methinks they’re taking things a tad too far.
Long ago, advertising legend David Ogilvy said, ‘The Consumer isn’t stupid. She’s your wife.’
Honey Boo-Boo and Dog the Bounty Hunter notwithstanding, I remain convinced the average American is still smart enough to tell the difference between an ad and editorial copy (especially when it’s as obvious as the Shape example).
And, if a company really does blur the lines in blatant, deceptive ways, let’s turns the FTC watchdogs loose to do their thing.