Shape Tries, Fails to Push Native Ad Boundaries

Adco-superJumboEarlier this week we revisited the fact that native ads are nothing new with more than a little help from Adrienne LaFrance and The Awl.

Now Shape magazine has given us a great example of how the game has changed since the days of traditional print advertorials: the rag received a smackdown from the National Advertising Division after making what seemed like an earnest attempt to gin up some revenue by “editorializing” all over a product it created.

At first we thought “what’s wrong with a publication promoting its own ‘snake oil’ (not our words)?”

The worst part about this story, though, was the painfully obvious spin.

The issue is that in order to qualify as an editorial, the story about Shape‘s new Water Boosters (aka fancy Crystal Light) should have included either an even-handed comparison between these flavor drops and similar products or a “this is an advertisement” label.

It had neither.

Shape is a mag respected in certain circles for its health advice, yet the (now deleted) “article” in question cited the Center for Science in the Public Interest on the negative effects of sugary drinks while simultaneously claiming that these new products could somehow help consumers lose weight and provide unspecified “bonus benefits” via added nutrients. No data to back those claims up, of course.

So it’s Vitamin Water without the packaging or the 50 Cent endorsement.

Snake oil indeed.

(Pic and story via The New York Times)