Saturday, February 14, 2015

Forbes Taking Native Ads to New Level

The latest issue of Forbes that will hit newsstands on Monday will feature a native ad for Fidelity not on its foldout or second cover, but on the actual cover. While it is common to advertise sponsored content, Forbes magazine has clearly crossed a line that many in the publishing industry view as sacred, given that placing ads on magazine covers remains a taboo in the industry. 

In the native ad - a tactic where ads seek to mimic editorial content - Fidelity Investments calls out the FidelityVoice branded content inside the magazine on the right side of the cover within a black box with a tagline that reads "Fidelity Voice: Revving Up Your Retirement". The ad appears just below the cover teasers for regular editorial content about retirement planning which appears in a light blue box, making the ad placement for Fidelity contextually relevant but also distinguishable from editorial content. However, it is missing a crucial element: an explicit disclaimer that identifies it as sponsored content.

In an industry that is under so much financial pressure that editors are enlisted to work with advertisers, magazine publishers have flirted with placing ads on covers but have resorted to placing ads on fake covers or cover flaps. During May last year, Time Inc. made a similar move by putting small ads for Verizon on the covers of Time and Sports Illustrated magazines that were located near the mailing labels or barcodes. Although these ads may seem unobtrusive, they appear to depart from the American Society of Magazine Editors' guidelines which clearly instructs magazines to "[not] print ads on covers" as the cover of a magazine should solely represent the editor and publisher's brand statement.

Clearly, this advertising strategy by Forbes was not particularly well-received and it is not difficult to understand why readers are angry - especially when the cover tease was thrown in as a byproduct of the deal and did not come at a premium!

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