Vice’s business director has admitted they would have looked “fucking stupid” if they had gone along with a controversial interview offer with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd put to them by Naked.
The agency was caught out after issuing a brief to three youth brands, including Vice, offering an interview with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in return for free ads for the Labor Party and editorial supporting faster broadband.
Last week Naked Australia chairman Mike Wilson stepped down from the agency, and they have been sacked from the project by the ALP.
Vice’s Alex Light told a Publishers Australia Young Minds event last night: “We were approached.
“I can’t comment on what conversations happened and what was agreed to and what wasn’t, I can say if we had an interview with Kevin Rudd and it was on our site and if there were ads for the Labour party running around it and we had produced a video that endorsed the PNG asylum seeker policy or bring out a piece of editorial which said hey kids here faster internet is good for you, how fucking stupid would we have looked?
“How much respect would we have lost with our audience?”
His view was echoed by Pacific+ managing director Georgina Brujic, who said they received regular offer similar to it, but derided it as “foolish” adding “if that business survives I’d be very surprised”.
In the same session, looking at branded content, King Content senior content strategist Kye Mackey gave an example of a story they had produced on farting in bed for the NRMA’s web portal, before saying there is no need to explicitly label brand funded content as such.
She said: “"I don't think it's necessary. Advertorial is very much product focussed, so there's some element saying buy this product.
“With content it's often hosted on behalf of the brand by a magazine, so you know a brand is implicit in it. Is it selling their product? No it's not.
“It's something completely unbiased and separate from the brand, so if NRMA is talking to you about farting in bed it’s not talking to you about their service offers, so I don't think it's necessary to flag that kind of content."
But that position was dismissed by Harriet Farkash, features director for Bauer’s Cosmopolitan, who said: “"We have branded content branded by Visa. If it’s in the magazine it's advertorial and not just chucked in there somewhere.
“If I mention a product it's because I as a journalist have used it and really liked it, and I wanted you to know about it, it's not trying to trick the readers.
“There needs to be that honesty because we work damn hard to create trust with our readers and making sure that we remain a source of trusted content. We're not going to jeopardise that just because a brand wants us to mention their eyeliner or something."
Her remarks were echoed by Brujic, who said they worked hard to educate brands on the limits of branding opportunities in their publications.
She added: “There are not deals that are done with advertisers, and yes the pressures are on in advertising.
“But by the same token readers are demanding more from their magazines, and all us publishers have decreased our ad budgets, and realise revenues have to come from other parts of the business. That's the reality of where we're at today."