Take Gawker. Prompted by what appeared to be a straight forward press release, Alley insider reported that the media company acqured a blog called BloodCopy.com. Later it was discovered that the news was fake and part of a “viral” campaign by HBO for a show. Gawker was leveraging its brand for use in an advertisiment.
Now it’s true that readers don’t really go to Gawker for the news value; they want to feel superior to others, regardless if the information is true, a rumor or just good enough of a lie to be worth posting. People go to the Times to get the truth. (I hear critics spitting up their coffee, but it’s true.) So how far does the Times go to leverage its brand without crossing the line?
According to Forbes, an Intel spot, which was designed in part by the Times’ ad sales team, used the newspaper’s own brand in the actual marketing message. A Times front page rolled over readers’ screens, revealing a date from the year 2040 and a headline, “President converses with dolphin, develops new environmental plan.” Readers who clicked on the strange article were sent to the homepage of Intel.
News media brands need to be held to a different standard than other brands. The Times brand stands for more than just some product being sold over the counter. It stands for a trusted news site. Links into content, takeover ads, videos, interactive advertisement, etc should all be far game in an industry that is grasphing for ad dollars. But the wall between Gawker leveraging its brand and the Times experiment is not as thick as it once was.
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