The Campaign For DA


Ads Disguised As News Stories

This has been on my radar for quite some time, and I think we've got a big one going on right now.

Southwest Airlines began a two day sale on Tuesday.  I heard about it on WBAP when they were bringing in a "travel expert" to talk about the deals. I became suspicious.  Later that morning I got an email from someone who knows I'm always on the alert for the ad/news trick who asked me if I heard the segment where they talked about the Southwest deals on the Ticket. He thought it was an disguised ad.

So yesterday Southwest's web site allegedly "crashed" during the day.  I saw at least two "news stories" last night on local TV. Yeah, news of a website crashing is generally bad but the stories had the tone of "the deals offered by Southwest were so good its servers crashed." Something wasn't quite right.

And today we get stories like the one above from the Dallas Business Journal about how the Southwest sale has been extended.  This is actual text from the "news" story: "The fare sale caused 'extraordinarily high' customer demand, Southwest (NYSE:LUV) said in a statement. Many of Southwest's short flights are on sale for $49 each way, making dozens of routes nationwide available for about $100 round-trip. Nonstop flights on Southwest's longer routes are priced at $99, $129 and $149 each way. The deals cover travel between Aug. 25 and Dec. 16, and do include blackout dates around Labor Day and Thanksgiving."

Doesn't that read like an ad? We are being played.

Am I saying that Love Field based Southwest paid DFW radio stations to promote the sale as "news"? Am I saying that their Internet site failure was a ruse so they could pay local DFW news stations to report about the "failure" because the "deals were so good"? Am I saying they are paying media outlets today to report as "news" that the sale has been extended?

I have no proof, but I'd bet "yes". Big time.

We are entering a new world for ads. People go directly to content and bypass ads with technology. So what's the next step for a company with ad dollars to spend? Bury the ads in the news. And with print media, radio and TV dying for ad money, they are willing to do it.

Edit: Some have pointed out that this post could be a paid Southwest ad. That actually crossed my mind while writing it. It's not, but if Southwest had paid me they would have an a brilliant ad campaign which borders on Inception.

Edit: Shout out to Fox 4's Steve Eager tonight telling Heather Hays, "It sounds like you are doing a commercial" when she reported the Southwest website problem and mentioned the specifics of the fare sale. He was sarcastic (of course). But that doesn't mean it is not true. He stoically and painfully anchored a full hour newscast dedicated to the American Idol finale one time because he's a good soldier. A snarky soldier, but a good soldier.