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When a commercial break or ad doesn't seem like one

When a commercial break or ad doesnt seem like one

Truth is, experiential content or native advertising is, beneath the skin, advertorial by another name.



By Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's desk)

Published: Thu 10 Oct 2019, 9:20 PM

It's a disruptive trend called experiential content, she said as she positioned a particularly colourful mock-up of the front page of an international newspaper on the table. Discerning Khaleej Times readers will know that our front pages are typically dynamic and vibrant, but this one was exceptionally so. A closer inspection revealed that one of the stories on the page was a puff piece for a particular brand. For the uninitiated, a puff is a piece of journalistic work that highlights the positive aspects of a personality, product or brand - an advertisement or publicity material masquerading as content.
It had a smart headline, a striking picture and good, engrossing copy. Still, the way it was impersonating the other, genuine news articles around it made me a little uneasy. "It's the best disruptive model for print," she said, sensing my trepidation (the 'she' here being the head of business development at a local advertising agency). "It's what the advertisers are now happy to spend top dollar for," she added, fully knowing that that's something sure to get any media professional's attention nowadays. It made me more uneasy, though. Even if one were to, for a moment, ignore the ethics behind disguising puffery as journalism, what's the logic behind the claim that advertisers were willing to shell out for this and not that (the 'that' being traditional advertising or advertorials).
Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the so-called native content have the same imperfections as traditional commercial messages or adverts? After all, it's reaching the same set of audiences, you can still not directly measure its performance, and it needs high-quality (read: expensive) resources for it to be creative enough to catch the reader's attention. Truth is, experiential content or native advertising is, beneath the skin, advertorial by another name. And those are almost as old as news media itself. So, what gives? Battered by the precision and might of performance-based digital advertising, print media is also plagued by this thinly veiled moral corruption. "What if we make it audience-centric?" she suggested. Then it's journalism in its classic form and, yes, let's just do that. It won't be disruptive - it'll be back to basics.


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