TORONTO – On closer inspection, the ‘In Memoriam’ section of a respected news site has turned out to be a piece of native advertising.
“John William Stearns (b. 1943) was a loving father, whose family is devastated by his loss,” one of the obituaries read. “He is survived by his grieving widow, bereaved children, and by his undying love for the radical taste of Mountain Dew.”
Although all of the notices were for genuinely dead people, sources inside the website say that death is just one more life experience that people have the opportunity to share with the companies that they love, companies like Pepsico, makers of the radical taste of Mountain Dew.
“Native advertising isn’t just about using a once-legitimate news source’s waning credibility to manipulate people into reading bullshit anymore,” said Steph Wenslow of the advertising firm BrandPenetration. “It’s about bringing fans of your company content that they want to read, like the news that they will never see a person they love ever again.”
Representatives of Mountain Dew also say that unbearable personal loss is a key component of their brand identity.
“You know what, my google searches included both ‘Mountain Dew’ and ‘coping with loss’, so I guess I have nobody to blame but myself,” said mourning son, John Stearns Jr. “Like when I searched ‘credit fraud prevention’, and Facebook’s algorithm started trying to sell me my own confidential information.”
This is the first time that the news site has itself been in the news since last year, when it was awarded the Doritos Pulitzer Prize for zestiness in journalism.