A recent Ad Age article is calling out an advertising issue that perhaps you've seen all along, perhaps (as advertisers would hope) you've never even noticed: Style sites and publications from Harpers Bazaar to Elle and even The New York Times are producing branded content on behalf of their advertisers, and often enlisting their editors as promoters. It's called advertorial.

Branded content post for H&M by Refinery29
Image via Refinery29

That Refinery29 post where editor Annie Georgia styles denim looks from Guess? I hate to break it to you, but it and the many other articles like it aren't being written because someone really loves Guess (Target, Calvin Klein, Nasty Gal, etc etc etc), they come from a place of cold, hard cash.

On the one hand, it's a sign of the times. Both the writing and advertising worlds have changed drastically of late and these so-called "native" ads help keep sites afloat and advertisers happy. But on the darker, more uncomfortable hand, there is the question of editorial integrity, trust, and motives. All these publications will swear that editors only back brands "they really believe in," but how do we as consumers trust that fact? And if some articles are clearly branded as "sponsored by" or "dedicated to," how do we determine the motives for all the other content?

To be clear: You won't ever see this from Shop Talk. Our official stance is honesty and transparency and we won't let the call of dollars or freebies influence our coverage. 

Check out the Ad Age piece and let us know what you think. Does this marriage of ads and edit corrupt style sites? And if you know you're being advertised to does it make a difference?

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