Native advertising grew up in 2014.
Advertisers went beyond asking, "Is this a fad?" to trying to understand how to measure the success of sponsored posts and native ads. Publications considered who should write sponsored content, and John Oliver "weighed in" on the discussion. Overall, native advertising and sponsored content pieces were everywhere. Even traditional publishers such as the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, and Washington Post joined in.
But they did so because of the numbers: spending on native advertising is expected to reach $21 billion by 2018.
Review this year of advancements in native advertising by checking out the best examples from 2014:
Supercompressor and GE
For the 45th anniversary of the moon landing, Thrillist Media Group create articles around the history of the landing with clicky titles, such as "11 Things You Didn't Know About the Apollo Missions" for GE, which wanted to bring to light the role the company played in the 1969 mission.
GE also released sneakers on Jack Threads (Thrillist's ecommerce site) that boasted features such as, "CX6 stabilized carbon fiber: Lighter and stronger than metal, and found in the belly of badass machines from jet engines to wind turbines, carbon fiber reduces weight while increasing durability." The limited edition shoes sold out in seven minutes, and bidding on eBay brought the shoes up to $2,000.
Wired and Netflix
In May, Wired released an in-depth, interactive piece on how technology is changing advertising. Sponsored by Netflix, the article was written by antropologist and expert on culture Grant McCracken who discussed everything from binge-viewing to movies stars migrating to TV to the increase in risk-taking in the industry
The single page features a parallex scrolling effect in the header, stats, a video interview with the producer of "Arrested Development," a reader survey, a timeline of TV history, and audio commentary. Many compared it to The New York Times' "Snow Fall", but applauded its lack of disrupting banner ad units.
Slate and Wells Fargo
For Wells Fargo, Slate did a profile on students from Lavelle School for the Blind and Visually Impaired who attend B.E.A.T. NYC's music and beatboxing class. The piece featured audio commentary from teachers and clips of students playing instruments or beatboxing.
The New York Times and Netflix
The New York Times launched its sponsored content in January 2014, and the publication has become an example for the media in regards to how to present native advertising -- from the use of a subdomain to the labeling in the header.
"Women Inmates Separate But Not Equal," published in August 2014, is a paid post promoting the release of the second season of Orange is the New Black. The in-depth article discussed the many problems women face in prison, the effect of incarceration on their family, and prison reform -- issues that are also highlighted in the popular Netflix show.
Gawker and Newcastle
For "We've Disguised This Newcastle Ad as an Article to Get You to Click It", Gawker Studios wrote a rambling piece that coincided with Anna Kendrick's famous not-a-Super-Bowl-commercial Super Bowl commercial. And it managed to both sell beer and question the native advertising format. Maybe research found that people who care about marketing and Gawker also drink beer.
The piece reads:
They also "bought" me — an in-house copywriter — because actual Gawker writers can't accept money from advertisers (not that I'm personally cashing Newcastle's checks but you know, whatever). As someone being paid to write this, I have to say that it's the greatest ad ever, mostly because Newcastle asked me to use those exact words. Is it the greatest ad I've ever been paid to call the greatest ad ever? Yes.
SB Nation and Nike
SB Nation published "First & Long," a sponsored section featuring six NFL athletes who return to their high schools for summer training. Each athlete created a video pep talk, encouraging young athletes to keep pushing themselves.
Mic and Cole Haan
Mic, an online publication that attracts millennial readers, partnered with Cole Haan for its leap into native advertising. This piece was the first in a series that profiled young women making an impact on the business world.
The Onion and Starbucks
Starbucks partned with The Onion to promote its Doubleshot Espresso by sponsoring a post about productivity on the weekends. It reads:
Perhaps within our lifetime we will even see to-do lists whittled down or even eradicated by Sunday nights, reversing the current trend of growth over the 48-hour weekend period. It’s truly a transformative prospect.” Olevich told reporters that her team is currently testing whether the phenomenon can be synthesized by combining certain levels of intrinsic motivation with an as yet undetermined volume of Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso.
Mashable and MasterCard
MasterCard and Mashable worked together to release a graphic-heavy article on how people use their mobile devices and how our relationship to our devices has changed. The sponsored post includes a large section at the beginning of the post detailing MasterCard's digital payment system.