The media industry has seized upon what’s known as native advertising as its latest panacea to address declining viewership and economic ills. Its definition can be a bit murky, but to me native advertising is a sales pitch that fits right into the flow of the information being shown. It doesn’t interrupt, and its content is actually valuable to the person viewing it. Here is a list of the best and worst of native ads:
1) Levi’s on Instagram
Levi’s posted four pictures of people wearing Levi’s jeans in outdoor places. With their sweeping vistas and painted skies, the ads looked like the kind of Instagram photo you’d double tap from a friend.
2) Orange is the New Black on The New York Times
Netflix sponsored a paid post on The New York Times, typing the piece to its fictional, but based-on-a-memoir, women-in-prison series. This was a case of well-chosen outlets turning topics into a win for both the brand and publisher.
3) Pretty much all BuzzFeed articles
BuzzFeed’s entire revenue is dependent on native advertising, and brands can easily integrate with its simple content model – so it is unsurprising that some of the more interesting examples of native advertising come out of BuzzFeed.
1) Church of Scientology on The Atlantic
A story on Scientology’s success felt off-brand for The Atlantic, and readers were vocal about their disapproval. The article received lots of media attention, and has since been taken down by The Atlantic.
2) Xbox One on Machinima’s YouTube channel
Microsoft broke the rule of native advertising by not disclosing that the videos on the popular gaming channel were actually ads.
3) HBO’s Girls on ThoughtCatalog
“30 Scientific Reasons Your 20’s Are for Doing What You Want” was only labeled as an ad if you got to the end, and the article itself was only loosely connected to the show.
Ultimately, native ads will probably not be sustainable for publishers or their advertisers. Personally, I expect native advertising to go the way of the pop-up ad, but BuzzFeed and Gawker will undoubtedly enjoy it while they can.