Native advertising is a term thrown around a lot these days, second only to big data. It's an area of marketing that I find interesting. There's not a one-size-fits-all approach and every publication and brand finds their own way of doing things. Buzzfeed has built a business creating branded listicles. Business Insider has an entire portion of their site dedicated to lifestyle and/or business content sponsored (and even co-created) by brands. In native ads, most of the time, each brand uses their own unique voice and tone to keep their content consistent to their other messaging while standing out from editorial content. However, The Onion takes a completely different direction. Brands that sponsor posts with them assume the satirical voice of The Onion - and it's brilliant.
This post sponsored by Adobe is titled "Advertiser Thought This Sponsored Post Was A Good Idea." First off, it discloses the sponsorship in the title - a tactic only the Onion could get away with. The article also closes brilliantly with "At press time, the company in question is actually considering doing another one of these things." The page also has links to videos and other Adobe banner ads. Cool but not as cool as Home Depot.
Home Depot + The Onion = The Next Big Thing
What I would consider one of the smartest native ad plays that I've seen an online publication (or brand) do comes from this video from Home Depot. They play off of any big electronics company announcement (*cough* APPLE *cough*) and deliver "the next big thing." The video is clearly marked sponsor and has Home Depot's branding all over it.
If you watch any college football, you've seen this bucket in just about any Home Depot marketing message. Even being satirical, everything is still "on brand" for Home Depot. The banner ads and sponsored hyperlinks don't take you to an e-commerce page at HomeDepot.com. Instead, it links people to their Tumblr site. They even post a "Bucket of the Week" on their Tumblr page. Home Depot took a fun yet strategic and integrated approach to this sponsorship.
The Onion is doing some smart things with native ads. What other publications or brands are doing a great job in the native ad space?
Side note: here's how they do Facebook posts promoting sponsored content: