This Is the Most Awful Piece of Sponsored Content I’ve Seen in a Long Time

Contently is staffed almost exclusively by media and marketing dorks, so when a particularly bad piece of sponsored content hits the web, there’s a decent chance it ends up in our Hipchat.

Now, bad sponsored content is like college performance art; it can range from ridiculous to egregious. And the link that popped up in my chat the other day—courtesy of Senior Managing Editor Ryan Galloway—definitely qualifies as the latter.

SpoiledNYC’s “7 Ways Happn Will Make You Feel Like a Player” reads like an advertisement, but considering there’s no acknowledgement of sponsorship until the very end of the page, you’re left to assume the author just got lucky on the trendy new dating app this weekend and thought, “Hey, their product description would make for a great listicle!”

But then, of course, you finish the entire article, and under it there’s a small disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Happn is free to download on the App Store and Google Play.

This is the worst kind of sponsored content—blatantly and intentionally deceptive. I hoped we were past this kind of practice completely, even on a site like SpoiledNYC, whose “Why Spoiled?” sounds like someone threw Justin Beiber in a giant blender of Gary Vaynerchuk and makes me incredibly ashamed to be a New Yorker born between the years 1980 and 2000:

“It seems as if New York City was crafted with the millennial generation in mind. We thrive here, in these fertile grounds for the resourceful. We live within our means, but without any real boundaries or borders. In a city where we can do what we want, when we want, we are free to flourish. We are creative. Dope. Resourceful. Smart. But please, forgive us for our impatience. We are spoiled.

(SpoiledNYC did not respond to a request for comment.)

For SpoiledNYC, this is just a bad move if they want to build good relationships with their audience because readers will either realize that this post is fishy before finishing it and leave or feel deceived when they get to the disclaimer at the end. It’s simply not acceptable to fail to mark a post as sponsored somewhere above the fold in a way that’s easy to see. They’re also doing a disservice to their client, Happn, by relying on such devious practices. It’s very unlikely that the reader will walk away feeling good about anything.

And isn’t feeling good what listicles and an app that lets you virtually flirt with people you pass on the street are all about?

Update 4:12 pm: Response from Pavel Konoplenko, Founder of Spoiled NYC:

“We launched spoiled nyc 3 weeks ago (today is day 1 of week 4!) and haven’t had an opportunity to craft out an explicit, written policy for sponsored content just yet. The way we handle sponsored content is we want to highlight apps that can make life in NYC a lot easier and more convenient. We want our sponsored content to provide value, not just by being an interesting article, but also by having New Yorkers discover new things. That’s currently the policy we have for sponsored content.

We’ve been experimenting with different options for introducing the sponsored content disclaimer in the beginning. One of the ways we’ve looked at is having a button on the featured image of the article that says Promoted, similar to how Buzzfeed does it. We also looked at a way to mention the disclaimer next to the Author name and date, but we are currently still looking for a developer to make basic site fixes, so both options would be something we’d be able to implement down the line. There’s definitely things we want to try out differently for sponsored content as we continue to try to work with different apps down the line.”

Update 9:12 am 3/5: Spoiled NYC has moved the disclosure up to the top of the post.

Image by Ostill
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