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Let's Be Clear About Deception
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The most common argument the anti-advertising community has is that advertising is deceptive and manipulative. That advertising forces people to thrust their hands into their wallets and purses, and give the big bad free enterprise system all the money they have.

Give us a break.

As advertising grows smarter in the digital age, activities change. The latest is called "native advertising". Maybe you've heard of it. Of course, as our industry is prone to running to the shiniest object, our colleagues are swooning over the "power" of native advertising. 

And the anti-advertisers take another swing.

This swing comes from the Huffington Post. Writer and journalist school dean Edward Wasserman writes about how native advertising is inherently deceptive, and brings up the somewhat controversial Scientology ad that appeared in (and taken down) the Atlantic.

We do take issue on a few of his comments. Namely, the first one: that the "drift" for media organizations to get money from advertisers rather than readers is a new one. Ae we're sure Dean Wasserman is aware, advertising has been a subsidizer for media consumption for decades. This trend, though on a new platform, is not a new concept. We've written multiple times about how advertising has made information consumption extremely affordable to the regular consumer, and if consumers had to pay the full price, a lot of media organizations would be in trouble.

Then, Wasserman noted that the Scientology ad had a "sponsor content" title above it, yet people were still either misled, or upset. Rather, he would rather see "paid advertisement". Unfortunately the definition of advertisement only states that as long as the audience is notified that the information is coming from a specific, known source, it is considered an ad. Perhaps the job "Sponsor Content Space" would be more popular.

Native advertising is not deceptive. In a free market, it is up to consumers to educate themselves on the sources they consume. Whether we like it or not, that is how economics works. If the consuming populace doesn't like native advertising, they can change their habits, and support products and organizations that don't.

Silly us, why should we give consumers responsibility? 

We do agree that advertising must be ethical. It must be known. If information is paid for, it should be told. But forgive us if we don't believe that advertising must dumb down its tactics for people in order for it to be abundantly clear. As journalists write for a specific audience, as does advertisers. 

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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