Last week I came across advertising in an unlikely place: a memorial guestbook. A childhood friend of mine passed away and her obituary was posted on the local paper’s website, along with an online guestbook where readers could publicly post messages to her family. Many people wrote in the guest book, sharing memories and offering condolences. At the top right corner of the page and beneath the window to enter your personal message was an advertisement for BloomsToday, a florist, even though the obituary — like most obituaries — asked readers to make donations to the SPCA in lieu of flowers.
It’s interesting that this advertisement doesn’t include the company name at all. It’s presented as a service, a convenience, for mourners. And while I don’t think the advertisement is in itself sinister (Why wouldn’t a florist want to place an ad in such an effective spot? Many businesses capitalize on grief — it’s nothing new), it’s another example of the blurring between editorial and advertising content.
As consumers become less willing to pay for content, media producers — both print and online — are becoming increasingly savvy at making money from everything. I’m interested to see how the public will tolerate it and if, a few years from now, we’ll be able to tell the difference between ads and editorial content at all.