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Brazil | Advertising to The Natives

Screenshot from 2015-03-05 14:50:55

Topic: Journalism, PR and Native Advertising in Brazil

Author: Nelson de Sá

Source: OI

 Native advertising is a form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears. For example, an article written by an advertiser to promote their product, but using the same form as an article written by the editorial staff. The word “native” refers to the content’s coherence with other media on the platform. —Wikipedia

See also advertorial and how Google detects advertorial.

At last, a comprehensive overview of the major Brazilian public relations and propaganda agencies — the Big 4 — in the context of a global trend toward the use of “native advertising” and other techniques considered unorthodox in traditional journalism.

Let me take down additions to my  growing roster of major PR agencies — where did I put that? I used CmapTools to create a diagram — and if there is time, render the author’s incisive comparative view of the major topic.

For the flamboyant marketer João Santana, a journalist by training and awarded the Esso Prize in 1992 for his coverage of the Collor scandal, the reelection of President Rousseff was not the only successful campaign in the  2014 elections.  In Rio and São Paulo, the PMDB and PSDB reelected their governors as well. Taken together, these two successful campaigns, were more low-key, making a virtue of silence, despite hiring the largest public relations firm in Brazil: FSB of Rio de Janeiro.

The agency today employs more than 600 professionals, most of them ex-journalists and many ex-investigative journalists, dwarfing the human resources of traditional media in Brazil, both in print and TV. In 2013, when it still listed clients on its Web site, FSB noted the work it had done for two major clients: the PMDB government of Rio de Janeiro and Sabesp, São Paulo’s sanitation company, state-owned and by the PSDB government.

In the latter case, the work to be performed was to “position Sabesp as the principle source of information about the sector in the State,” by means of “strengthening ties with the general interest and the specialist news media,” in such a way as to produce “four times as many positive stories as negative.” This was no mean feat, on the eve of the elections and the first indications of the water crisis at Sabesp, which serves the greater São Paulo metro area.

Nor was the “general interest and specialized press” the only target of the campaign. The agency increasingly works with digitial media, such as “monitoring the Web presence and managing the public image” of the most diverse list of clients imaginable. Among others, the agency has at various times worked for the  Belo Monte Consortium and various government ministries, as well as Ambev and the Fluminense football squad.

It also represented the Line 4-Yellow subway extension in a crisis management situation following a major construction collapse.

And FSB is not unique in this regard. On the contrary, it is part of an ongoing flourishing of public relations in Brazil.

Not far behind comes CDN of São Paulo, with a similar staff of journalists and a diverse and sometimes even conflicting client list, such as the press secretary of the presidency (SECOM) and PSDB state governments. In late 2013, the agency was acquired by Nizan Guanaes, who had been seeking to enter the PR business for some time. A decade ago, the ad man had announced publically that the traditional ad agencies were less profitable and that the future lay in public relations — PR.

FSB and CDN are the visible leaders of this sector, with a large, stable pool of human resources. Next in order come InPress, Máquina, and Insight, though not necessarily in terms of size, as well as local representatives of major foreign entities, such as Edelman, the largest independent PR agency in the world, as well as WPP and Interpublic. Also in the mix are temporary task forces with dozens of journalists and other communications specialists spreading throughout the elections of 2014, offering services on the same two fronts: traditional and digital media.

PR in the Digital World

The growing power of PR structures is not confined to Brazil. It comes as part of a more advanced movement already underway in Britain and, especially, the United States. Journalist John Lloyd, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford has recently published, with Laura Toogood, a director of the PR agency Digitalis, a study designed to identify what is happening to the relationship between PR and journalism and what it means.

… In an essay of 160 pages, Lloyd e Toogood make it clear from the beginning that the relationship is a two-way street: it is not only a case of PR operators approaching journalists, but also of journalism approaching, or better, adapting to, to the  new   digital environment.

In a case of this kind, the messages are launched by the news vehicles through parallel news rooms, with ties to the commercial department rather than the journalistic news room properly speaking. It is what is known as “native publicity, also known as “branded content,” or sponsored content. Criticis refer to it as paid content. The strategy is controversial, but the accelerating decline in ad revenues drove the adoption of the practice in Britain and the U.S.

The New York Times, which has published 40 native advertising campaigns in the last year, the parallel newsroom experienced a new round of hirings in January, taking on 35 professionals. The priority of the native model stems from the reader’s refusal to pay for access to digitial content, as the NYT and others tried to do with the paywall strategy. The Guardian has recently rolled out a new online design, designed to draw the eye to more sponsored content. But there is much more at stake.

The central argument of Lloyd e Toogood is that we are living “a diminishing dependence of PR on journalism and a growing dependence of journalism on public relations.”  The agencies still need traditional vehicles in order to present “the endorsement of a third party,” a varnish of credibility, but they now have other “very powerful allies.” PR executives interviewed for the study believe they can assume, and are in fact assuming, the functions of journalism.

Em entrevista por telefone, Lloyd, ex-editor no Financial Times e na New Statesman, hoje também colunista na Reuters, explica que os novos “aliados” podem ser resumidos num só, a internet. São as redes sociais, as ferramentas de big data, os canais próprios de comunicação: “O que a revolução digital dá para todos, inclusive indivíduos, é a capacidade de publicarem por si mesmos. Quando é bem organizado, bem direcionado, como acontece com muito do material de RP, pode ter um grande efeito”.

Ou seja, as agências e seus clientes, “sejam eles empresas, partidos, governos”, têm outros canais de comunicação com os públicos que querem influenciar, “sejam consumidores, acionistas ou uma comunidade em particular, por exemplo, a financeira, além é claro do eleitorado, quando são políticos”. Por meio dos novos aliados, todos podem ser alcançados diretamente “e você não precisa tanto de pessoas como nós, jornalistas, para transmitir – e mudar as suas mensagens, talvez criticá-las”.

Citizen Journalism

 This scenario clashes dramatically with the ideal of the “citizen journalism,” proclaimed two decades ago, in the first years of Web-based news, by such critics as Jay Rosen of NY.  The gatekeepers of the traditional media are not being replaced by public criticism by citizens. The search for and publication of informations is being performed instead by other organizations — with mottos like “inform, qualify, influence” — the mission statement FSB.

Lloyd affirms there has been a loss of the critical spirit. Much of what is published nowadays as information is not edited or critically read by a journalist “or by any other person.” More importantly, it is presented without context.. “A company can publish an article saying it is going to undertake a big new project and there is no one, no journalist to remind them that the last time they announced this, the project failed. As the author says, “You can publish what you want, any way you want to.”

O resultado mais escandaloso disso, quase um pesadelo distópico, aconteceu em Richmond, na baía de São Francisco, nos Estados Unidos. No início do ano passado, foi lançado o Richmond Standard, site noticioso que mimetiza em tudo um site de jornal local. Com uma diferença que o leitor só vai perceber se olhar com atenção: das reportagens aos editoriais, é tudo produzido pela companhia de petróleo Chevron, que tem uma refinaria na cidade e um longo histórico de conflito com a comunidade e seus representantes.

O Standard, título derivado da gigante que gerou a Chevron, o monopólio Standard Oil, foi criado pela agência de relações públicas Singer Associates. Seu editor-chefe é contratado da Singer. O site foi bastante questionado, desde o lançamento, por jornais de São Francisco – emO Standard, título derivado da gigante que gerou a Chevron, o monopólio Standard Oil, foi criado pela agência de relações públicas Singer Associates. Seu editor-chefe é contratado da Singer. O site foi bastante questionado, desde o lançamento, por jornais de São Francisco – embora tenha sido também mencionado como uma saída para a crise dos jornais locais nos Estados Unidos. Mas foi um site ligado à Universidade de Berkeley, cidade ao lado, que abriu campanha para desmascarar a Chevron e seu jornal, de olho nas eleições municipais.bora tenha sido também mencionado como uma saída para a crise dos jornais locais nos Estados Unidos. Mas foi um site ligado à Universidade de Berkeley, cidade ao lado, que abriu campanha para desmascarar a Chevron e seu jornal, de olho nas eleições municipais.

No fim, os candidatos financiados pela companhia de petróleo acabaram derrotados em novembro, o novo prefeito creditou muito de sua vitória aos jornalistas-estudantes – e a história deles foi parar na mídia nacional americana. De maneira geral, o caso Richmond Standard, que segue no ar, transformou-se num alerta sobre os riscos da publicidade nativa, com suas reportagens descaradamente em favor da Chevron e até contra um concorrente. Alerta que vale também para Brasil e outros países.

Expanding the Model

John Lloyd programou uma visita a São Paulo para este início de 2015, para levantar como a aproximação entre RP e jornalismo está se dando por aqui. Seu livro aborda, além de Estados Unidos e Reino Unido, três países com desenvolvimento distinto do fenômeno, França, Rússia e China. No primeiro, afirma o estudo, a velha resistência ao modelo americano e capitalista nas comunicações veio cedendo ao longo das últimas décadas – e hoje, por exemplo, no marketing político, não se pode mais falar em exception française.

Nos dois últimos, há maior presença estatal. Na Rússia, onde foi correspondente do FT, Lloyd se concentra na “poderosa máquina de RP instalada no Kremlin”, opondo “a grandeza da Rússia” e do presidente Vladimir Putin aos Estados Unidos e à Europa Ocidental. Na China, “os líderes, mesmo sem ter que enfrentar eleições, precisam levar em conta o sentimento do público”, o que torna as relações também importantes, sempre mostrando o presidente Xi Jinping em busca de “unidade e harmonia, as velhas ideias do confucionismo”.

As to Brasil, expectations are that it will follow trends similar to those identified in the U.S. and Western Europe. “The PR agencies are growing powerful, making more use of the Internet, investing more in digital. Now they are producing news, creating new online channels, Web sites. That is, journalism is more and more subordinate to PR. This is the reality, I believe, everywhere where the media is powerful.”