Beware of the Ad: How a Premium Network Can Save Your Reputation

On 04/10/2018 by Araceli Almada

With the rise of fake news and misinformation on the Web, publishers and advertisers alike are coming under the spotlight. All agents in digital marketing share responsibility for the creation and preservation of a clean and transparent Internet. But why is it important for you to avoid problematic content and clickbait traps? 

Your Brand Is Your Reputation 

In 2013, Barilla’s president stated that he favored “traditional” families and wouldn’t use same-sex couples in advertising. A fierce backlash ensued among pasta aficionados, with infuriated customers calling for boycotts worldwide. Skip-forward a year, and Barilla scored a top rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s list of employers who are LGBT- friendly. In the event’s aftermath, Barilla’s president confessed that he learned “a great deal about the true definition and meaning of family.” Nonetheless, we are sure he also learned a great deal about brand reputation. To this day, Barilla is ranked in the Global RepTrak 100 as the 36th most reputable company in the world, proving that a big selling point for any business is that it has a human side.

Moreover, it’s a great example of how a company’s public image plays a predominant role in today’s hyper-connected society. Marketing strategists not only need to strive for putting their brands on the map, but also understand and embrace their customers’ values in order to survive and thrive. While customers want to know what a brand stands for in order to trust who they’re purchasing its goods or services from, it’s trust that creates credibility. In turn, it’s credibility that enables customers to become consumers. Therefore, building a healthy and trustworthy image of your company is a long-term project of vital importance and needs consistency in a world of constant scrutiny. Brands always stand on the razor’s edge, and the Barilla example speaks volumes to how a long-established and loved brand can turn into a public enemy within seconds

The Case of The Atlantic

Any advertising medium can run risk to the credibility loss of a brand when not used to its integrity. As such, neither has native advertising being immune to dealing a “reputational” blow to advertisers and publishers. Let’s take the case of the Atlantic, American magazine focusing on foreign affairs, politics, economics and culture. Native ads played a key role in the Atlantic’s economical survival, considering that the digital advertising revenue of the newspaper accounted for 59% of the brand’s overall advertising revenue haul in 2012. 

In 2013, sponsored content by the Church of Scientology featured on the Atlantic’s website, singing the praises of the leader of the controversial religious group, David Miscavige and sparking outrage in the readers’ community. Trusting the American magazine as a moderate liberal example of cutting-edge journalism, readers felt a sense of betrayal. An uncritical sponsored content on Scientology called into question the whole status of The Atlantic as unbiased and analytical. 

The Atlantic realized its mistake shortly thereafter and deleted the article from the website’s feed; however, the damage had already been done. The case spiraled up in controversy and ignited a broader discussion on newspapers’ credibility, the relation between advertisement and journalism, and the supposed damages native advertising can inflict on publishers and brands. 

How to Wriggle out of Risk

The problem doesn’t lie in the intrinsic characteristics of native advertising. The blatant mistake in the Atlantic’s case was a lack of quality control and failure in recognizing and committing to their audience’s values. A sponsored article by Scientology was not relevant in the context of the Atlantic and did not match with the usual reader’s profile. The short-sighted choice of approving a moneyed advertiser to boost revenue turned out to be a painful failure. It is of foremost importance for publishers who want to profit from native advertising to keep a watchful eye on relevance and quality of sponsoring partners. Fake news and problematic content is increasingly becoming the next frontier for advertisers and publishers in light of their reputation. On both sides of the native advertising spectrum there is a need for a network of quality publishers and premium brands to ensure that no articles on controversial topics will appear on their websites. 

Are you looking for a premium network for your native advertising needs? Contact us today so we can help you succeed.