Branded Journalism: An Error or Revolution in Advertising?


By Lukas Raich

Max Verstappen in a Red Bull Formula 1 car.

Isaiah Steele, Site Manager

Since the explosion of technology and its integration in everyday lives, there has been a mirrored explosion in advertising. Before cell phones, social media and newer forms of advertising were present, billboard, newspaper, radio and TV ads were the extent of companies’ advertising. But today, companies are taking advantage of insanely popular social media platforms, creating their own content to influence consumers in a new way.


Instead of presenting advertisements alongside other content, companies have transitioned to creating their own content-creation groups to develop content known as ‘branded journalism.’ Senior Michael Bender, a member of PV’s chapter of Future Business Leaders of America, commented on this transition to branded journalism. “Other forms of advertisement can overwhelm the consumer and make them feel as if they are being sold something. Branded journalism comes in a more informative approach, creating better trust between consumer and company.”


Red Bull Media House is an extension of Red Bull that has come out of this revolution in advertising. Red Bull not only sponsors athletes as part of their advertising, but also covers events like journalists at news organizations. That means that when F1 driver Max Verstappen races, news organizations are not the only groups covering him. Red Bull is also present, writing their own stories. The only difference is that Red Bull’s motivations are not only to create content, but to curate that content in such a way that attracts consumers and develops their feelings towards Red Bull in a favorable way.


PV business teacher Janene Murphyused local Hy-Vee as an example. “If [someone] saw a commercial that said, ‘Buy your birthday cake at HyVee’ on TikTok, they’d scroll right past it. It may even be a turn off to them, making them less inclined to buy from HyVee”, Murphy continued. “But if they saw a video of a HyVee bakery employee demonstrating how to make a perfect frosting flower on a birthday cake,they’d feel HyVee taught them something new, so they’d think more favorably about HyVee and would be MORE inclined to buy from them.” 


Murphy pointed out that instead of inserting advertisements into media with a separate purpose, companies are creating their own media to relate to the consumer and make it seem like the consumer and producer of a product are on the same team.


Some worry that, because branded journalists are employed by a company to develop relationships between a brand and its consumers, that they are not as honest as other journalists. John Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight,” is wary of the new trend, likening the precautions we should take to the “separation of church and state,” worrying that the confusion of advertising and journalism will mislead consumers. 


Despite his remarks, branded journalism is here to stay, and instead of protecting consumers like some might like, consumers will have to think for themselves if they want to avoid the negative side of branded journalism.