The misleading world of news versus advertising

It is increasingly difficult for media to make money these days. Some of their methods and inconsistencies are being questioned.

A thread at Reddit suggests that The Spinoff is confusing product promotions with news on Facebook: The Spinoff hiding adverts like it’s a news article, the same stuff they call out other media agencies for. No disclaimer, no transparency.

That’s on Facebook. It was pointed out by ‘nekomae’:

The “Content created in partnership with HelloFresh” banner at the beginning of the article, the “Partner content” author credit, and “This content was created in paid partnership with HelloFresh” disclaimer at the end (including a link to their partner content policy) doesn’t count?

You have to look carefully for those disclosures but they are there.

It might not be excellent transparency but “no disclaimer” would suggest an absolute lack of anything.

RanuiVibes91 responded:

Fair point. I’m meaning on the actual FB post. Doesn’t really bother me either way just more the fact they call out everyone else but don’t exactly follow the rules themselves. Moral high grounds and all that….

Both fair points. On Facebook there is no indication it is an advertorial type link – and Facebook will be the primary place that many people see content from media sites like The Spinoff.

Looking at other links on The Spinoff’s Facebook page shows criticism of other media and their advertising, but more links that appear to be product related.

This is fair criticism of advertising at NZ Herald (there are often advertisements on television that are just as misleading). Actual costs – $14.99 PLUS $49.98 for ‘processing and handling’ PLUS $9.99 for ‘processing and handling’ of the ‘free’ nutrient fusion (whatever that is) for a total of $64.97 – for a 30 day ‘risk free trial’. The actual cost to buy everything outright is $599.97 – so this is awful advertising and deliberately misleading about the price.

But this is a separate issue. Back to The Spinoff on Facebook.  Also yesterday:

News or product promotion? There are no disclosures on the linked article, so this appears to be an actual article – but it’s impossible to tell the difference on Facebook.

While it can’t be ignored I usually manage to avoid most advertising online. If something does annoy me I shut it and go somewhere else.

But these advertising methods must be effective or they wouldn’t keep being used.

It amazes me that there is growing business in delivering food packs to homes, but that is consumers choice.

So is avoiding links and sites that have annoying advertising – also consumers’ choice.

 

 

 

 

Electoral Commission ineffective again after advertising breach

The Electoral Commission as tut tutted a bit, nine months after the election, and not even slapped Patrick Hogan over the hand with a wet tote ticket after he claimed that he didn’t know the rules when advertising in support of NZ First during last year’s election campaign.

The rules are effectively a waste of time.

Stuff reported (in Officials warned against racing tax breaks):

Former Cambridge Stud owners Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan broke electoral rules by paying for a full-page advertisement in industry newspaper The Informant in September.

That earned them a slapdowns from the election watchdog this week.

A spokesperson for the Commission said: “It is the Electoral Commission’s view that the advertisement was a ‘party election advertisement’ as defined in the Electoral Act. The advertisement should have had the written authorisation of the party secretary from New Zealand First prior to the advertisement being published. In addition, the advertisement should have contained a promoter statement. ”

She said the Commission accepted that the breach was unintentional and the Hogans were unaware of the rules.

Hogan has been around long enough, and I think promoting NZ First long enough, to have known there were electoral advertising rules. It could have been some sort of deliberate ignorance, but I don’t see how he wouldn’t have known what he was able to do within the rules.

“Having considered all the circumstances including the modest expenditure involved and the circulation of the publication, the Commission will not be taking the matter any further.  The Commission has explained the rules to Sir Patrick and The Informant and recommended that they seek advice on election advertising in the future.”

So breaking the electoral rules isn’t a big deal as long as you say that you will check them out before doing it again.

In the meantime the race horse breading industry has been given tax breaks in this year’s budget despite IRD recommending against it again.

Electoral Commission investigating pro-NZ First advertising

The Electoral Commission is investigating pro-NZ First advertising during the election that was not declared by the party in their returns.

RNZ: Electoral Commission looking into ad in horse racing mag

The Electoral Commission is looking into an ad placed by the horse racing stalwart Sir Patrick Hogan during last year’s election campaign.

The ad, in the racing industry publication The Informant last Septemberurged people to party vote New Zealand First because of its leader Winston Peters’ support for the racing industry.

The Electoral Act requires people who take out ads promoting a political party during an election campaign to have the party’s permission.

New Zealand First said its party secretary did not authorise any third party advertisements.

And NZ First did not declare this advertising in their electoral return.

Otago University public law professor Andrew Geddis said if Sir Patrick did not have the necessary authorisation he may have committed an illegal practice and could be fined up to $10,000.

The Commission has not had a great record trying to enforce electoral law so I wouldn’t expect much from this.

But Hogan and the racing industry got what they may have expected from Peters – a special tax break for horse breeders. Last week’s budget allocate $5 million on tax deductions “for the costs of high quality horses acquired with the intention to breed” if it is a stand out yearling “that commands attention by virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

It wasn’t made clear whether the Minister for Racing would personally judge the quality and looks of yearlings.

See  Peters and a handsome horse called Neoliberalism.

“Imagine a world without white men”

These days it’s not uncommon to come across ‘white men bad’ type sentiments. It’s not uncommon for someone seen to be a ‘white man’, especially one who isn’t young and doesn’t seem to be poor, to have their views dismissed as irrelevant in the modern world.

All ‘white men’ are tarnished with the same white brush off.

Lucy Zee at The Spinoff:  Remembering the white men who tried to sell us stuff on TV

Imagine a world without white men.

Well for starters, New Zealand would have hardly any television commercials. My parents were very fresh Asian immigrants when they had me, and the only way I learned how to speak English before going to kindergarten was by watching TV.

TV back in the day wasn’t as diverse as it is now (or didn’t try as hard), so commercials were 99% white people with big white teeth, followed by more white people with even bigger and whiter teeth.

As I got older, the flashy whiteness steadily got more mind numbing and much more obnoxious. I couldn’t tell if my TV was showing the same amount of whiteness it always had, or if I had simply become more aware of my racial identity and demanded more diversity.

My entire life I had been raised by white men telling me what to buy, what to eat and how to eat it. Some ads worked, some didn’t, but I remembered all of them. Looking back on the past few years here is a list of the most memorable white men who tried sell me things I didn’t need.

A number of advertisement examples are given. Suzanne Paul, Marge and Briscoes aren’t included for obvious reasons.

So what did we learn? Even if you don’t watch TV anymore; even if you have an ad blocker on your browser; even if you stab your eyes out and block your ears; white guys are still out here trying to sell you something. If it’s not a tyre then it’s a dream. If it’s not a dream then it’s themselves.

The worst part of all this is that those “nostalgic” white men ads aren’t all that spectacular.

They must have been hopeless. Companies that advertised went broke, newspapers and broadcast media went broke (they are now but that’s a different story, Google isn’t a white male).

They do the absolute minimum an advert needs to do. If something is forced down your throat enough – all day, every day throughout your entire childhood – you’ll probably start to enjoy it. But we need variety, we need flavour, we need more colour on our plates. Because having too much white bread just isn’t good for us.

Funny thing – I only ever had white bread at home, browner bread with lumpy bits were a curiosity when I saw it at my neighbours – who happened to be a white couple. But the beer was all the same brown colour then too.

This article prompted some discussion at Reddit: Remembering the white men who tried to sell us stuff on TV

I don’t have the energy to care if it’s tongue in cheek or not but The Spinoff’s increasing amount of articles that focus on race (namely that white people are a problem) are starting to annoy me. If this is tongue in cheek then I really don’t understand the purpose apart from trying to create controversy.

Oh… it’s not tongue in cheek. She’s serious about white people controlling ads I guess. So she selected a few ads and used that as proof? And only men for that matter so I guess it’s sexist as well? I don’t get it.

Fuck this is tiresome.

Ah, but computer_d is bound to be a white male so he would say that. Ignore it.

You should put me on the ignore shelf too amongst the white cobwebs of the past – except that I could claim to be of a smaller minority than whatever Lucy Zee thinks they are (I presume non-male non-white).

What both of us write is grey on white – does it matter what colour our fingers are?

 

Doomed to amuse ourselves to death in our post-1984 brave new world

Danyl Mclauchlan writes at The Spinoff about Seeking shelter from the information monsoon.

The whole article is worth reading but ironically: My brain is like a tiny teacup with a firehose gushing into it. The torrent displaces itself. I’ve read everything yet remembered nothing. Still it keeps coming.

But he remembers something written back in 1984.

Apparently George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty Four has become a bestseller for people struggling to make sense of our times. It’s a great book. But all the way back in 1984 the media theorist Neil Postman gave a series of lectures titled Amusing Ourselves to Death in which he argued that Orwell’s book was not the dystopian novel that currently described our society: instead he urged us to read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World:

“Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

This feels increasingly true to me.

Huxley’s version sounds far more accurate to me too.

One of the few books I have managed to read recently is The Attention Merchants, by Timothy Wu: it talks about where the sea of information comes from, and why it keeps rising and rising. It’s a history of media and advertising.

Another quote from Amusing Ourselves to Death:

The television commercial has mounted the most serious assault on capitalist ideology since the publication of Das Kapital. To understand why, we must remind ourselves that capitalism, like science and liberal democracy, was an outgrowth of the Enlightenment.

Its principal theorists, even its most prosperous practitioners, believed capitalism to be based on the idea that both buyer and seller are sufficiently mature, well informed and reasonable to engage in transactions of mutual self-interest. If greed was taken to be the fuel of the capitalist engine, the surely rationality was the driver.

The theory states, in part, that competition in the marketplace requires that the buyer not only knows what is good for him but also what is good. If the seller produces nothing of value, as determined by a rational marketplace, then he loses out.

The problem with any social or commercial theory is that in practice things turn out to be non-ideal, and as practices and behaviours evolve they can move further from the theoretical ideal.

So we come to “both buyer and seller are sufficiently mature, well informed and reasonable to engage in transactions of mutual self-interest”.

Commercialism has become corrupted. The sellers have become obsessed with duping people into buying things they don’t need, and in fact may be unhealthy, especially when consumed to excess as the sellers want.

And a significant proportion of buyers seem happy to be duped. It is easier than thinking for themselves.

There are some who see this and campaign against the corruption of commercialism, but their proposed solutions tend to be too extreme and easily dismissed as the naying of nutters.

The allergy industry is an interesting beast. Foods foisted on the population by product pushers has introduced an explosion of genuine allergy problems, but commercial interests have not only catered for this, they are creating business by promoting fear of falling to foul products.

Promoting balance in advertising, balance in diet, balance in technological acquisitions and balance in stuff you don’t really need doesn’t get much attention because the media needs advertisers to survive so are loathe to bite the hands that feed them.

Maybe what we need are the right algorithms for Google and Facebook to manipulate the masses towards healthy lifestyles. But social media giants live off advertising too.

So are we doomed to amuse ourselves to death in our post-1984 brave new world?

Food marketing criticism tainted by political slogans

Food marketing which promotes junk food to children is a real problem, but raising the issue with ‘neoliberal’ labels taints the message of Darren Powell, a lecturer in health education at the University of Auckland.

NZ Herald: Needs of children, not Big Food, must win out

It looks as though our Advertising Standards Authority will, once again, fail to adopt a strict code of food advertising to children and young people. This is hardly surprising.

In neoliberal societies such as our own, the wants of the private sector frequently take priority over the needs of citizens, including children. This is especially true for the “Big Food” industry which includes the multinational food and drink producers with massive marketing power.

The marketing of multinationals, especially when it involves the promotion of unhealthy eating, should be addressed, but including vague political slogans doesn’t help Powell’s case. Labelling it a neoliberal problem may please a few political activists but it will turn off ordinary people, and also those with the power to do something about the problem.

The ‘Big Food’ label doesn’t help either, that smacks of us against them.

A raft of public health experts, journalists, researchers and the public blame Big Food products, lobbying and marketing practices for the childhood obesity “crisis”.

Claiming the support of ‘the public’ is a common and lame political practice. Without any substantiation it is poor coming from an academic.

Powell does make some important points.

Although on the surface it looks as if corporations are promoting healthy lifestyles and health products, at the same time they are stealthily creating and profiting from a new market – advertising “health” to children.

An example of how devious and successful fast food companies can be is the association of Ronald MacDonald with child health in Auckland (and nationally).

This is where the narrow focus on “junk” food advertising restrictions is naive, even dangerous: all advertising to children is potentially “unhealthy”.

But it’s totally unrealistic to protect all children for advertising – and futile when it is parents that make diet decisions for their children.

Children are being conditioned to believe attaining good health is as simple as listening to advertising and consuming the right products. This deflects attention from complex and powerful determinants of health, such as genetics, poverty, colonisation and inequality.

Should children be educated on complex determinants of health such as genetics, poverty, colonisation and inequality? Should they have Politics 101 at pre-school?

Through marketing, children’s understanding of health is being altered. It is moving away from traditional and cultural perspectives of well-being and towards a corporate-friendly version of health that emphasises individual consumption.

My traditional and cultural diet, relatively uninfluenced by advertising, was later slammed as unhealthy – too much meat, supposedly bad fats, sugar loaded baking, and even our vegetables were

Rather than being shaped by culture, biological needs or family income, children’s choices are increasingly being guided by mascots, cartoon characters, product placement, free toys, free educational resources, sponsorship, philanthropy, and the promise of a fit, non-fat, socially acceptable body.

Those are important and serious issues.

This must stop – our policymakers must introduce controls that prevent children being advertising targets. And it can be done. Brazil, for example, has made it illegal to market any products to children on the basis that it is equivalent to child abuse.

Unless all food advertising was banned – and this should include useless health supplements, diet fads, exercise fads, and products that cause more problems than they are purported to solve like disinfectants – then it’s an uphill and probably futile battle.

We must challenge the assumption that marketing healthy lifestyles and healthy choices is inherently “healthy” and examine how marketing tactics may actually shape children’s thoughts and actions in unhealthy ways.

Yes, but that should be done with research and fact based information.

Further, we must find better ways to make advertising – of both “healthy” and “unhealthy” products – abnormal and help children to become critical consumers, aware of marketing strategies and stealthy tactics such as sponsorship, product placement and “educational”, “health-promoting” programmes.

No suggestions at all of how that could be done. Ban all advertising? Ban all sponsorship? Implement state enforced diets and state controlled media?

Food (and other) marketing is a real issue, but politically tainted rants will more likely detract from rather than contribute to effective solutions.

Food (and other marketing) and sponsorship is a complex issue that creates difficult to resolve problems.

Powell has raised issues, tainted them with political slogans, and has failed to offer realistic alternatives. He means well but seems to be sheltered by an idealistic academic bubble.

Advertising – newspapers versus Google

From a @jayrosen_nyu tweet – ‘a useful chart’:

advertising-ewspaperversusgoogle

That gives an indication of why newspapers are struggling, and why some are posting a lot of trivial clickbait on their news sites.

It doesn’t tell the whole advertising story as it excludes broadcast (TV and radio) revenue, and doesn’t include other online advertisers like Twitter.

But it shows graphically how much newspaper advertising revenue has plummeted.

Dick Smith direct advertising overkill

For various reasons I have ended up on the email lists of a number of retailers. I shop around for the best deals and have found some of those at Dick Smith, and I think to get a discount sometime I registered with them.

They are by far the most pervasive, pesky advertiser that clutters my e-mailbox. The seem to have a different sale every other day, alternated with bargains. If they ever have an out of the ordinary sale I’m unlikely to notice.

Here are their emails from the last seven days.

  • 29 Oct: Score Yourself Another 15% OFF! Here’s the Code…
  • 29 Oct: Last Temptation… Take a Further 15% Off Online!
  • 30 Oct: Think BIG, This Is It! Our Biggest Ever XXXXL Sale
  • 30 Oct: Too BIG To MISS OUT! Our Biggest Ever XXXXL Sale
  • 31 Oct: Your Weekend Treats Are Here..
  • 31 Oct: Happy Halloween! HURRY Online for Your Treats…
  • 1 Nov: Rewards You Can Bet On! Take Up to $100 Off Today
  • 2 Nov: The Clock Is Ticking! View the 24 Hour SALE EVENT
  • 3 Nov: WINNING OFFERS! Your Crazy Cup Coupons Are Enclosed
  • 3 Nov: Don’t Be Last Past the Post… Cup Coupons Still Available!
  • 4 Nov: Just About EVERYTHING On Sale + New Zealand’s Biggest Summer Event

And I’m not promoting any of those sales, they will be on to something new (albeit same old) today.

I don’t know if their promotion descriptions are computer generated or if someone is employed to think up something unoriginal for each day.

But I’m over it and am unsubscribing. If I want something that they sell I’ll shop around at the time, as usual.

Thank You!

You have been unsubscribed from this publication.

I wonder if I’l get a super unsubscribing offer.

Ho ho ho! No!

We lurch from one commercial onslaught to another.

Briscoes led the way on sale saturation but many others have caught or passed their incessant pitching.

I registered with Dick Smith a while ago – they have some good bargains at times – but they are awfully insistent. I sometimes get several emails a day promoting or reminding about a different name for a special or a sale. I have to getting around to killing that beastly intrusion.

Online advertising failing

Onlune users who have become skilled at ignoring advertising won’t be surprised by this article from Fortune – Brands are using social media more than ever, and users are ignoring them more than ever.

Engagement is falling, despite increased activity from brands.

a new study shows that, ten years into the social media phenomenon, the noise has increased, but engagement has decreased.

According to Forrester, brands are using more social media than ever. At least 80% of the top 50 global brands actively post to the top five social media platforms, and their followings on those platforms has increased. But engagement is down over last year. Despite increasing their volume of posting on just about every social media platform, the percentage of posts that garnered interactions with users fell.

The rates at which users interact with branded social media posts has always been low, but Forrester’s 2014 study and this year’s, they’re looking even worse.

In order words, brands are doing more work and getting less attention for it

This is apparent locally, whith Whale Oil acknowledging that their onslaught of advertising hadn’t delivered the revenue they need so they are looking at a different way of generating revenue – see Whale Oil proposes new revenue model.

Mainstream media are continually struggling to find ways of stemming their revenue losses.

A slight drop is to be expected to some degree – early adopters will always get the most attention, and over time, users will become desensitized to ads.

Social networks should worry about the desensitization, though. There was once a time when banner ads were tolerated. Then people started ignoring and the term “banner blindness” was coined. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have long touted the superiority of their ads over banner ads, which have miserable click-through rates of less than 0.1%. But if Forrester’s study is to be believed, the interaction rates on social media aren’t much better, and they’re only getting worse.

Maybe an era of marketing dominance is over. It won’t disappear, but perhaps the heaping of hype has done it’s dash.

People are getting better at ignoring bullshit.

We may be getting better at finding and consuming what suits us rather than being duped by marketing.

This could mean a victory for the market model as opposed to the marketing model – the best products and services will earn the most attention.