As the hardtracking staff has repeatedly noted, publishers are on native advertising – those ads in sheep’s clothing that mirror the editorial content around them – like Brown on Williamson. Sticking with the theme of fairy-tale fauna, native advertising looks like the goose that lays the golden ads.

Native advertising also looks pretty spiffy these days. Case in point, from Advertising Age:

Netflix Goes Native on The Atlantic to Promote ‘House of Cards’

Pays Six-Figure Sum for Lengthy Multimedia Article on First Couples

Netflix is paying The Atlantic a sum in the six figures to create a lengthy, reported article with interactive charts and a video exploring the dynamic between certain U.S. presidents and their wives — including the fictitious first couple in the Netflix original series “House of Cards.”

The article, called “The Ascent,” is a native ad created by The Atlantic’s in-house marketing shop, Re:think, and appeared on The Atlantic’s website [last] Wednesday. It promotes the third season of “House of Cards.”

It’s a very slick piece and yet another example of how sophisticated native advertising has become. Ad Age again:

It’s the third large native ad the streaming service has financed in less than a year. The first appeared on last May and covered the future of TV. The second native ad, which ran on The New York Times website, looked at women’s prisons as a way of promoting another Netflix original series, “Orange is the New Black.”

Atlantic Re:think joins the New York Times’s T Brand Studio as high-quality, high-priced branded content shops separate from the publications’ editorial staffs. As you splendid readers might remember, The Atlantic’s maiden voyage into native advertising was a lot choppier. Back in 2013 the magazine’s website ran – and quickly pulled – a Scientology-sponsored post that could have made Tom Cruise blush.

That train wreck  forced the publication to rethink its guidelines for sponsored content and led to Re:think. Live and let learn, eh?

And learn they did. The Ascent: Political Destiny and the Makings of a First Couple is beautifully done, a savvy mix of text, still photography, and video chronicling first couples from FDR and Eleanor to Ron and Nancy to Bill and Hillary to George and Laura to Barack and Michelle. And it all culminates in this:



Of course, the better native advertisers get at this grift, the more kudzu-like it will become, threatening to overrun and choke legitimate editorial content. But hey, as long as Frank and Claire keep showing up on our screens, what the hell.

John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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