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This Week in Content Marketing: FTC to Brands — It’s All on You


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode of This Old Marketing, Robert and I ponder the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) decision to slap Lord & Taylor’s wrist for deceptive native ads – while ignoring the publisher’s role in this debacle. Next, we agree that some publishers have undermined their credibility by doing deals with content recommendation engines, which often expose their audiences to sleazy topics on questionable websites. Instagram is the latest social media channel to ditch a real-time feed in favor of an algorithmic one; we discuss what marketers can do to ensure that their content gets noticed. Finally, we’re confused about NPR’s decision to not promote its podcasts on its member radio stations, and why Vice Media is being criticized for creating ads to promote Phillip Morris. Rants and raves include the death of social content and L’Oreal’s launch of an unbranded fashion website. We wrap up the show with this week’s This Old Marketing example from Xavier University basketball.

This week’s show

(Recorded live March 21, 2016; Length: 55:57)

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1. Content marketing in the news

  • Discount codes for CMI services (5:51): If you’re planning to attend Content Marketing World 2016, now is the time to register. Use the discount code PNR200 to save $200 on the registration fee. This “return to early bird” pricing is good through March 31, 2016. In addition, we’re offering a $100 discount on CMI University, our recently re-launched e-learning program that’s focused on content strategy. Save $100 with the discount code cmipodcast. Open enrollment – and this discount – end on March 31, 2016.
  • Lord & Taylor settles FTC charges that it deceived customers with native advertising (4:39): Retailer Lord & Taylor has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it deceived consumers by paying for native advertisements, including a seemingly objective article in the online publication Nylon and a Nylon Instagram post, without disclosing that the posts actually were paid promotions. Robert and I agree this is a cautionary tale for brands because it demonstrates the critical importance of disclosure when designing native ads.


  • How easy, sleazy money is ruining publishers’ reputations (11:34): Through deals with recommendation-engine vendors, publishers are being paid to publish tacky come-ons to boost the web traffic of truly awful, disreputable websites. Robert and I agree that the problem is that publishers are so desperate for revenue that they’re using these ads to steal traffic from each other, which is damaging their credibility – and will probably damage or destroy the recommendation engines, too. We discuss one way brands can use these tools that adds value to audiences and enhances credibility.
  • Instagram loses its “insta” (19:14): Instagram announced this week that it is joining Facebook and Twitter and ditching its clean chronological feed in favor of an algorithm-based personalized feed. What does this mean for marketers? It means Instagram users organically following brands may miss those brands’ organic posts, warns Forrester. I explain what marketers need to do to gain attention in this increasingly ad-driven social media world.
  • NPR decides it won’t promote its podcasts or NPR One on air (23:24): NPR has published a policy document to its member radio stations and distributors that declares broadcasters can mention an NPR podcast as a news source, but should not endorse it. It sounds to Robert and me like this radio network is turning its back on podcasts and digital media. That won’t sit well with its network, which shares revenues with it. We agree that NPR is going to need to evolve its business model to survive and thrive.
  • Vice Media attacked for marketing tobacco adverts for Phillip Morris (31:56): Vice Media has been condemned as “irresponsible” by campaigners for using its expertise targeting young people to make ads for tobacco company Phillip Morris. The work was carried out by Edition Worldwide, a separate company owned by Vice that produces content for advertisers. Robert and I aren’t sure why only this media company is being singled out for criticism, rather than the tobacco company.

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3. Rants and raves (38:38)

  • Joe’s rave: I love an article from TechCrunch that’s entitled Algorithmic Feeds Force Us to Compete, which declares that recent changes in the major social media channels means marketers can no longer use them as unlimited promotion engines. I believe this article is a reality check for marketers; we must improve the engagement value of our social posts – or risk obscurity.
  • Robert’s rave: Robert is excited about L’Oreal’s decision to launch an unbranded hub called Fab Beauty that targets only the most dedicated and in-the-know beauty aficionados – a very niche-focused audience. Robert loves its crystal-clear editorial mission and its focus on building an audience. It will be a great test bed for learning more about the needs of its audience, which should benefit L’Oreal’s core business.

4. This Old Marketing example of the week (50:36)

  • Xavier: This article in The New York Times describes how the Xavier men’s basketball team makes its playbook publicly available to anyone who wants it. In 2001, the university started sending out a stapled print newsletter to 800 Ohio-area coaches, in the hopes of building a better recruitment program. Many issues contained detailed descriptions of plays, diagrams, and game summaries. Today, it’s an email newsletter that is sent to more than 30,000 coaches in 17 countries. The Xavier coaching staff is completely transparent and holds nothing back. This has enabled it to build relationships with many coaches around the world, who use Xavier’s plays and its coaching techniques and highly value its content. In the last 15 years, this newsletter has helped Xavier grow from a little-known men’s basketball program into an NCAA powerhouse today. This is an amazing example of This Old Marketing. It’s very timely, because we’re in the midst of the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament.


For a full list of PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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