How Hidden Advertising Works on the Internet


Are you aware that a considerable part of digital content is generated solely for marketing purposes? Every day we consume a large amount of content: articles, videos, social networking posts, images, etc. – and don’t seem to care how it influences our way of life. You may not believe it, but information shapes how you interact with people, what you watch and read, what you eat and drink, etc.

Ads and hidden messages are all around us, but often we are too busy to notice and decipher them. We do what advertisers and content creators want, being part of a devilishly smart strategy to influence our buying behavior. This is called hidden advertising.

Just imagine that you are a marketer for a newfound startup. Your niche is saturated and controlled by competitors. You plan to invest in digital marketing – beef up your website, purchase PPC ads, register on social networking platforms, generate lots of superb content – but realize that it’s not enough. You need to broaden your reach and do it quickly. Here’s where hidden advertising can help.

You decide to trick the system. You cook up a story about a woman who has used your service to pay for food in restaurants and cafes so often that she is now suffering from obesity. She sues your company and demands $10 million because nobody told her that your offer was so good. Guess what? In several days, this story will be all over the local news, and if you are lucky even nation-known giants will mention it. Now everybody knows about your brand – the job is done! (Don’t forget to discuss the story with your company’s legal department to find ways to close the case quietly, though. You don’t need negative publicity.)

Advertisers are so smart and innovative today that, in most cases, you will not have a clue that you are a part of the game. Hidden advertising messages are all around us: blogs, vlogs, forums, Q&A platforms are packed with them. And there is a good reason why.

People hate ads. They are clever enough to understand: when a company advertises, it’s not incentivized to be completely honest about its product or service. Nobody wants to feel like they were tricked, right? And the icing on this cake? Hidden advertising is much cheaper than traditional and even digital methods. It enables marketers to engage large audiences quickly and easily.

In the following article we will talk more about hidden advertising on the Internet. Read on to learn smart ways of subliminally bringing your company’s message to its target audience.

How to Detect Hidden Advertising Messages on the Internet

Every digital marketer knows that advertising is an unending battle between companies and customers. Businesses devise smart ways to sell their products and services, while customers rely on ad blocking software and learn how to pick the wheat from the chaff. Thus, marketers should always be one step ahead and discover new ways of advertising and selling. Hidden, subliminal advertising is certainly a valuable tool.

To understand hidden advertising better, let’s identify common types of subliminal messages which are used by digital marketers to lure in customers.

– Paid references and comments
Contact the right people at the right time and ask them to write some positive comments about your product or service. It is crucial that references and comments look natural. If your customers figure out that you tried to trick them, the consequences will be horrible. Don’t try to save a dollar here – quality of the comments is what makes it work.

– Review articles on forums, blogs and news outlets
Just create a typical buyer persona and write a review about your product or service. The review should be high-quality: neutral and descriptive of competitor products but delicately stressing that your solution is better. Again, it needs to look natural.

– Brand marketing testimonials
Those are posts and videos from influential bloggers or celebrities, asking subscribers to try this or that product. It can be a review of several products, a video describing why your product is better, or just a celeb photo on Instagram with your product just lying on the table.

– Rumors and disinformation
Those should be used carefully. But if you are ready to take the risk, rumors can be used efficiently to drive traffic, attract customers and generate mentions on social networks and in the news.

– Hidden instructions
People don’t like to think. That is why your website needs to be intuitive and easy to use; your blog posts – well-structured, with white space, images and bullet points; your marketing message – clear and concise. Hidden instructions on how to use and buy your product or service, if properly integrated into articles, videos, comments on forums and social networks, simplify the buying process and increase ROI.

Examples? You are a blogger and an influential newspaper asks you to share your thoughts on a given topic. You can write the article and then share it, or just update your profile on Facebook or post a tweet that you’re now crafting an article for such a famous and accredited news outlet. It is simple but will immediately raise your profile in the eyes of other bloggers and readers of your blog.

Recommendations on Instagram & Blogs

Instagram has quickly positioned itself as a social network for celebrities. You don’t need to have writing talent or pockets of time to be active on it – just take pics and share them, adding a couple of hashtags for better searchability. Celebs flock to Instagram to market themselves, so why not take advantage of that to market your business?

Hidden advertising messages are very common on Instagram. Of course, most celebs don’t take money to take a pic in your dress or posing with a ridiculously expensive bottle of champagne – it is just their way of life. Yet, sometimes they collaborate with companies, subtly influencing their fans and likes.

Hidden recommendations do their job. Just find a celeb or an influential user with lots of subscribers on Instagram and ask to advertise your company. How? Let the celeb take a pic with your product and describe where and how to purchase it. It is as easy as that.

Bonus: hidden recommendations are much cheaper to pay for than massive campaigns on TV or even PPC campaigns. Yes, you do pay the celeb for posts, but you don’t need to invest in gathering data, analyzing your target audience, crafting ads and targeting potential customers.

Any other ways? Sure! If your product is really good, send it to influential bloggers, vloggers and popular social networking personalities. Let them use it and describe their experience. Even if some of them leave negative reviews, that’s not a problem – your digital marketing campaign will look more natural.

Of course, savvy customers are fully aware of hidden recommendations. Thus, don’t use them too often. Select celebs and influencers who stay in touch with your target audience and are capable of doing the job right.

Brands & Video Bloggers

YouTube video blogs are increasingly efficient when it comes to hidden advertising. Billions of people watch YouTube videos every day, and guess what? They are more inclined to believe bloggers than TV ads or even articles in company blogs.

Your strategy is simple: find influential bloggers in your industry, contact them and ask to review or just mention your product or service. People trust bloggers – don’t hesitate to take advantage of them. The blogger can say whatever he or she wants about your product (even negative reviews matter). You goal is to capture attention, entice users to learn more about the product from your website, convert them into leads and nurture them into customers.

Purchasing a review may be expensive but they generally pay for themselves. Even if blog subscribers understand that the blogger advertisers a product or service, they won’t unsubscribe. Regular video ads are much more annoying than hidden ones.

The latest trend on YouTube is the promotion of going-to-be celebs and beginner video bloggers. You need to use this trend. Create an account for your typical buyer persona. Promote it and then use that account to popularize your products and services. Just make sure that it looks nice and pretty.

If children (or their parents) are your target audience, you need to focus on creating cartoons. Nowadays, kids are all over YouTube finding and watching tons of videos. It makes sense to contact a video blogger or a studio which creates cartoons to discuss ways of introducing a new character into the cartoon series.

If your company runs a campaign to collect used batteries, create cartoon series describing how bad batteries are for nature. For instance, your cartoon characters want to help plants grow faster and decide to enrich the soil with batteries. Of course, the plants won’t do so well. The cartoon will explain that used batteries should be recycled – hide the message about your company in a form of a CTA or just a logo. Kids will get the message and ask their parents to solve the problem. Done!

Bottom Line

Hidden advertising is the future. Of course, traditional marketing and natural digital marketing will still be used. But to gain a competitive edge over competitors quickly and easily, marketers will have to rely more on trustworthy, subliminal messages. The world is changing, and you have to be on the same wavelength as your target audience, or you will be left behind.

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