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Ads Disguised as Content Mislead, Annoy

Sponsored Stories, Promoted Tweets found misleading by many

Content marketing is a hot topic among both business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketers, who are using it to generate brand awareness, create an impression of industry thought leadership and engender loyalty among current and future customers. But with the fluid nature of online ad formats and tactics, along with the ever-present problem of bad actors hoping for unearned clicks, some consumers may start pushing back at the blurry line between advertising and “real” content.

An October survey by social and mobile advertising solutions provider MediaBrix found that 86% of US internet users had been misled by videos that appeared to be content but turned out to be sponsored ads. Nearly as many, 85%, said that when they encountered such video ads it either changed their opinion of the brand for the worse or had no effect—in either case, disguising a video ad as content isn’t winning over many consumers.

The problem extends to social media ads, which have been embraced by many brands and made a lot of money for the world’s biggest social networks—and which often show a good return on investment. But nearly six in 10 internet users said they had seen Facebook Sponsored Stories that they thought appeared misleadingly as content, and 45% said the same of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets.

Both social networks have made an effort to make advertisements appear integrated and seamless with other content, but that’s just what seems to be turning off consumers. MediaBrix also reported that 72% of those who felt misled by Sponsored Stories had either not changed their opinion of a brand or changed it for the worse, while 62% of those misled by Promoted Tweets said the same.

Chief Marketer found that as of September, 20% of US marketers using Facebook employed Facebook’s Sponsored Stories.

On Twitter, Promoted Tweets were more popular: Chief Marketer reported that 26% of all marketers used them.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Consumers, Marketers Disagree on Effective Ads” and “Across Industries, RTB Spend Up in Australia.”

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