Report: Refinery29 ‘Pushing the Boundaries’ with Blurred-Line Sponsored Content

BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 02: Businessman holding dollar bills in his hands on July 02, 2014, in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Refinery29, a media and entertainment company focused on young women, “blurs the lines” with how they promote sponsored content, becoming the outlet which is “pushing the boundaries the most,” with controversial tactics that even target its own employees, according to a report.

The news outlet has been allowing advertisers to “set up shop inside its offices,” where companies could directly target Refinery29 employees, while it has also been extending sponsored content to editorial staffers’ personal social media accounts.

“The line between church and state in journalism has grown progressively thinner,” reported Digiday. “But Refinery29 giving its editorial staff the chance to operate like influencers has caught the attention of advertisers. The number of advertisers that ran native ads on Refinery29 increased 76 percent year over year in 2017.”

Refinery29 has also used parties, their Instagram stories, and near-mandatory sponsored events for employees to tempt advertisers.

According to Digiday, last year Refinery29 “began offering advertisers the chance to market their wares directly to editorial staffers, via a product called Refinery Pop-Ins.”

“Advertisers were permitted to set up shop in an event space that sits near the main newsroom in Refinery29’s New York office. Staffers, lured by the promise of cocktails, had the chance to sample everything from donuts to beauty products from brands including Clinique,” they explained. “The Pop-Ins typically had hashtags associated with them, which attendees were encouraged to use.”

“Attendance was not required for Refinery Pop-Ins. But according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the matter, staffers, including former executive editor Caroline Stanley, would send multiple, increasingly urgent emails out to editorial staffers on days when the Pop-Ins were sparsely attended,” Digiday claimed.

A media agency source reportedly told Digiday that Refinery29 is “pushing the boundaries the most.”

“We have some partners that are very church and state. It makes it difficult for us to build something that feels authentic to the audience. With Refinery, what we get there is something that blurs the line a little bit,” the source declared, while an attendee to multiple Refinery29 events claimed, “It was hard to tell what was sponsored, and what was not.”

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington, or like his page at Facebook.

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