Say hello to yet another mainstream publisher that’s gone native (advertising).

From today’s New York Times:


A Message That Tries to Blend In

AS Madison Avenue continues debating the pros and cons of a hot trend in marketing known as native advertising — digital pitches styled to look like the editorial content of the publications in which they run — Vanity Fair magazine is voting “aye” by bringing out its first such effort, for Hennessy Cognac, that is to begin Friday on

The Vanity Fair effort, which is to last six weeks, is in conjunction with a traditional ad campaign for Hennessy . . . The native ads on will offer additional information about the campaign, which carries the theme “Never stop. Never settle” and asks, “What is your wild rabbit?” — an animal personifying a pursuit for success and achievement.


Here’s what the ad looks like:



Looks like a regular post, yeah? But the Times piece points out it is labeled “Sponsored Content.”

The video, however, is not:



According to Rodney Williams, senior vice president for marketing at Moët Hennessy USA in New York,  “We’re not trying to confuse or engage in legerdemain . . . We want people to know where the enhanced content is from.” For example, he notes, the native ads on will link to the Hennessy website.

Oh, well – that makes it all okay, doesn’t it?

More transparency? As with the real articles on the site, the Hennessy ad features a byline, but “rather than the name of a writer or reporter, the byline will read ‘Vanity Fair Agenda,’ indicating that it was written by the magazine’s creative services department.”

Indicating to who? The average reader is supposed to just know that? And how’s this for double-talk: “[Williams] said he believed that native ads were appropriate for Hennessy because ‘the idea of the wild rabbit is not immediately accessible for some people.’ This is a chance to provide content that enhances the explanation” of the concept that we’re not smart enough to understand.

The hardtracking staff has said it before and we’ll say it again: Times advertising columnist Stuart (Stockholm Syndrome) Elliott is a bit too blasé about stealth marketing for our taste. Then again, the Times itself is getting into the native ad racket in the next month or two, complete with a “full content studio” to produce the ads in sheep’s clothing.

It all fits together like a watch.


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.
John R. Carroll has 305 post(s) on Sneak Adtack