Is a quiz unethical just because ExxonMobil paid for it?

Is native advertising fake? Is it product placement? Is it inherently disingenuous? This author says absolutely not.

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Last September, as one small part of an outreach program aimed at getting schoolchildren interested in engineering, ExxonMobil paid for one of those BuzzFeed quizzes. You know the ones I’m talking about: Answer a series of questions in order to learn which Disney princess you are.

In this case, the answers determined what kind of engineer you should be. Readers were presented with nine multiple-choice questions and statements, including “What was your favorite part of summer camp?”, “What do you look forward to most on a road trip?” and “Pick a cell phone case.” (I undertook the exercise. I’d make a great systems engineer, it turns out.)

The quiz is clearly labeled as native advertising. (ExxonMobil is referenced twice in the prominent disclosure.) As part of a broader campaign that focuses on attracted kids to disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, it serves a noble cause.

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