Advertising Disguised As News

Advertising has historically come in many forms, but the real challenge for advertisers today, is integrating promotion directly into content in a seamless manner. Our special correspondent Tropey McBlatant has more;

There is an innovative new method advertisers are using to get their message across. Rather than placing promotional material in the commercial breaks of a show, they are integrating it directly into the show itself, through a new process known as Advertising Disguised As News by Trope Co.. We talked to its CEO to learn more; "In this process, we have multiple ways of doing it. We can produce promotional content that looks and feels exactly like something you would see on a local newscast, or we can provide scripts and other materials to be used by the broadcaster that gets an advertiser's message across without disrupting the format of the program. Or, we can simply send a representative from the brand to appear on the show, so they can interact with hosts and other personalities." It is expected that this revolutionary process will become more popular as advertisers realize that they can now present a more "in-depth" portrayal of their product or service than what can be done through a traditional commercial.


Often known as "native advertising," an "advertorial" or "fake news", this is when a media outlet runs or otherwise distributes content that looks like a typical news story discussing that great new drug you've never heard of (or similar), but in reality, is literally just an advertisement written by the company who makes it, poorly disguised to look like editorial content, and often featuring flowery, press release-like language in praise of its advertiser.

In the case of TV examples (sometimes known as "video news releases"), these stories are usually disguised to look as much like a typical local news story as possible, often in the vein of a Could This Happen to You? story with a reporter, B Roll, Vox Pops with "experts" and "real people" (who will often be paid actors and the like), etc. How such a piece is used depends on the local producer; they may just take bits and pieces from it to use like Stock Footage, wrap it with narration from one of their own anchors, or just air the piece unedited and pretend that the reporter on the video is part of their staff. Sometimes, it may just involve a presenter casually talking about something that ends up being an ad, or a paid segment where representatives from the company appear to talk up their wares.

Laws in some regions, such as the U.S. and U.K., require advertorials of this nature to be properly and clearly disclaimed, or they may be considered payola. Though in some cases, they still might not be.

Not to be confused with Self Promotion Disguised As News, when a TV channel uses editorial content to promote its own programming.


  • This is the modus operandi of the locally-produced daytime "lifestyle" shows seen on some TV stations in the U.S. (such as WFLA's Ur-Example, which is literally called Daytime), which liberally combines relatively normal daytime talk with blatantly promotional segments where local businesses pay to have their employees appear as "guests". Likewise, to ensure neutrality, these shows are almost always produced by a station's creative services or sales department and kept separated from their actual news departments.
    • The networks in Australia also like these.
  • This one for OnStar's remote vehicle slowdown feature carries all the hallmarks of a video news release
  • One of the most infamous political examples in the United States came in 2004, when multiple TV stations aired video news releases from the U.S. government that were produced and anchored by an apparent Washington reporter named Karen Ryan, which pushed propaganda for Medicare and the country's education system without any indication of its true source. The General Accounting Office did point out that it's illegal to use federal funds for "publicity or propaganda purposes" without the permission of Congress.
  • In a variant, some of the earliest Visual Kei bands attained their promotion and first media breaks by setting up impromptu events and inviting news cameramen or entertainment reporters to film the results, usually without everyone from the news organization knowing the event was staged. One of the most famous was X Japan's ORGASM at YASHIRO NOODLE SHOP which consisted of the band performing their single "Orgasm" in a crowded noodle shop and then proceeding to annoy the customers and break the place. This form of promotion was immediately looked down upon by the rest of the Japanese metal community at the time (which considered it being an Attention Whore) and created a split between Japanese Heavy Metal and "Visual Kei" that would not be reconciled until Turn of the Millennium, despite that Visual Kei artists were playing Heavy Metal. It also backfired severely when tried (by the same band) in a more traditional way to promote on American news programs in 2010-11, also because of the increased obvious staging and PR involvement in the US media appearances, which only appealed to fans.
  • The Philippine magazine programme Rated K is infamous for this, shoehorning advertorials for dietary supplements of questionable efficacy, or beauty products, into episodes pertaining to a specific theme, complete with liberal use of adverbs "umano" (Tagalog for "allegedly") or "daw" (apparently), along with the usual testimonials from people who, umano, benefited from the products. Don't be surprised if an advert for the supplement shows up immediately during the commercial break.
  • The morning show (yes, the actual morning show, not an advertorial daytime show as mentioned earlier) on Fox-owned station WFLD in Chicago aired an remote interview with Shari Belafonte which ended up being an ad for a diet pill. It was disclosed, briefly.
  • The most literal example comes from infomercials that mimic the look and feel of a news interview show (such as one that aped Larry King Live to sell an, ahem, device for doing "that" to your "thing").
  • A lot of internet pages that are colloquially known as "clickbait" can be classified under this.
  • Media Watch increasingly highlights how newspapers, becoming increasingly desperate for advertising revenue, are printing what are basically commercials that look like editorial content.
  • There are some local news stations that actually present ads for local car companies live during the weekend morning newscast in the same format as the local news.
  • In China, some ads ran what looked like a urgent news report, saying that the "Sibuxiang Beast," a mythical creature, was real, and attacking civilians in a city. Much like the War of The Worlds broadcast, people freaked out, and the ad maker was fined.
  • Brand Power is a marketing group that runs ads that have the feel of news-bytes, completely with a newsy-sounding musical opening.
    • Similar to Brand Power is Medi Facts, which does the same thing, except they advertise medical products.
  • Ever since entering into a $250 million-dollar advertising and "integration" deal with the daily fantasy sports website DraftKings, practically every ESPN studio program has been pimping it in some way or another. Even worse? ESPN writer Matthew Berry pretty much turned his fantasy sports column into a giant ad for said site. In a follow-up, he did include a disclosure ... which ended being more praise for it!

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