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Of Pantene, paid news and brand credibility

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The paid news phenomena in Indian media has been a subject of debate. The focus has largely been on journalists selling out to politicians by creating positive stories for a price. Brands have also done opted for this route with celebrity endorsements and brand launches dressed up as ‘news’. The belief is that the unsuspecting reader will see it as genuine unbiased reporting thus leading to positive perceptions about the brand. Of late steps have been taken to differentiate such news as ‘promotional feature’ but there still would be a large portion of the reading public which would see it as news. But if one assumes that in many brand categories opinion makers come from the upper strata of society, who openly voice their opinions in online media they seem to be against this practice. Moreover, there could be a time when there is a surfeit of such ‘promotional features’ that the consumer starts viewing every piece of brand communication with suspicion.

On a related note there was much brouhaha over an advertisement (which was clearly marked as such) from Pantene which appeared in a recent issue of India Today.

The ad has an ‘interview’ section where the winner of ‘Face of Pantene’s Blogger Contest’, Naina Redhu, is ‘in a free wheeling conversation with Katrina Kaif’. But apparently the ‘interview’ never happened. The entire conversations was cooked up, pretty much like quotes in some press releases. Naturally, Naina the ‘interviewer’ was upset and she tweeted angrily about the whole issue on Twitter.  More details in this detailed blog post from @beastoftraal.

The irony is that Naina was the winner of a blogging contest from Pantene. I am assuming that she took part voluntarily because of some affinity towards the brand. In one stroke that equation has been dented. And in certain circles, influential in some way – authenticity of brand communication has been questioned. Advertising is already seen as twisting the truth and alluring people into buying things they don’t really need. Such incidents will only strengthen such notions.

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A marketing communications professional with a keen interest in all things advertising. I share creative ads and views on the ad industry here. Views are personal. See Disclaimer for more.

3 Comments

  1. That is why Its known as an advertorial….
    and do u know that never exists a Pond's Institute too as shown in the ads…
    and etc…
    The newspaper should literate people over it… i know how u feel…good that u came up with this

  2. I know these things keep happening. Whats more its not just Pantene or a personal care product but every brand across sector is indulging in such acts.

    Btw, i like pantene:)

    • I too have gone through this one of my brands recently where in the name of an advertorial an entire page was fudged to a point where..and now a days every newspaper creates content for you.. all that you have to do is give a brief to them and they will come with wild ass ideas and create gazillion interviews and with pics.. some being the writers kids or friends who readily to get their pics published because it's so cool to be seen in a national daily.. haha.. Marketeers work around their advertising so much and when you work on this side and know the realities it really makes you suspicious of every product.. i now tend to look at every thing that i buy or pick with double suspicion specially with foods since i have been working on that category for a while.. it's like that they say'he's a good talker'. brands seem to be doing exactly that. how you say things and word things can really make things sound very different from the actual reality.

      But the scary part is that is there another world out there which is most of the world who are far from the realities of Media and Marketing gimmicks.. for them what they see is what it is.. Prime example are my parents.. Every time i visit home and chat with them about many such stories they refuse to believe it because they cannot fathom the extent to which brands of people can go to buy out news or advertising..so i guess it works for the marketeers for sure but somewhere it's scary to see how people are getting cheated or given wrong impressions or sometimes even imparted a completely covered up or wrong knowledge about products..

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