One of the most poisonous and destructive forms of paid-for content is advertorial: adverts disguised as editorial. It is something that is constantly -and I mean constantly -pushed at publications, even those who resolutely refuse to take it. Ad sales people are constantly offered large deals to get the stuff in, PRs try every trick in the book, and the smarter advertisers are adept at trying to slip it in by the way they design their collateral or asking for this or that ambiguous aspect to a deal.
Advertorial destroys trust. It is deceiving the readership. It taints the entire publication. It is, in my view, one of the worst things a publication with any pretence to objectivity can do.
You wouldn’t believe how much time and effort goes into stopping it, and how many shades of grey there are, and how differently those shades look from different parts of a publisher. I’m lucky in that I work for one that has support for editorial from the top down, and backs up editors that say no. But there is always, always pressure to give advertisers stuff. These are hard times, and it is hard to say no, we won’t do that, it deceives the readers.
Yet there are ways to take the advertisers money, be faithful to the readership, and be transparent about what’s going on, and SB didn’t get that bit right.