As a tribute to the upcoming Belmont Stakes – and the honest-to-God chance we could see the first Triple Crown thoroughbred since Affirmed in 1978  (shine on, California Chrome!) – the hardtracking staff is dividing this madcap review into horse racing categories.


Win: NYT Exec Says Native Key to Great Advertising

Apparently we have it backwards here  at the Global Worldwide Headquarters of Sneak Adtack. All this time we thought native advertising was corrosive, but New York Times EVP advertising Meredith Kopit Levien says it’s the foundation of an advertising renaissance.

According to MediaPost, Levien dispensed that wisdom at OMMA Native during Internet Week.


Native advertising, she said, exploits the form, factor, discovery mechanism and production values of the surrounding content, taking the shape of the storytelling around it and aspiring to similar engagement.

That aesthetic will be at the center of the rediscovery of great ads for the digital age — something that she said hasn’t exactly happened . . . “I want to argue that in transition to digital advertising much has been gained, but something else, a key element has been lost. Native has power to restore that.”


There’s a lot of SneakSpeak like “your brand is really the subplot” in the MediaPost piece. But it sure sounds like the Grey Lady will be opening the kimono a lot wider in the days to come. (Defenestrated NYT executive editor Jill Abramson, take note.)


Place: The Top 10 Product Placements of the Past 10 Years

Ten years ago author Scott Donaton dubbed the convergence of advertising and entertainment Madison & Vine. Ten years later product placement is a $5.3 billion a year business, with paid plugs appearing in movies, TV shows, video games, music videos and books. Despite that, the category has failed to make significantt progress over the past decade.

From Advertising Age:


[In some ways], it’s shocking how little has changed. “The fact is, traditional TV advertising still works,” said Ben Silverman, founder and chairman of entertainment-production company Electus, former co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and enthusiastic proponent of branded entertainment. “So there’s not that aggressive a move away from it.”

Mitch Kanner, described in “Madison & Vine” as one of the branded entertainment’s earliest practitioners and leaders, was more blunt: “People were swinging at the ball 10 years ago. You’d have thought that people would have hit by now.”


Regardless, Ad Age calls the roll of the Top 10 Product Placements of the Last 10 Years.

Representative samples:


1. AT&T, “American Idol,” 2002-2013. The longstanding partnership, which AT&T called off ahead of the show’s 13th season this year, was a defining cultural moment, according to Mitch Kanner, founder of Two Degrees Ventures. AT&T’s role in the show came when viewers were asked to vote on the singing contestants. “It taught America how to text,” Mr. Kanner said.


2. Pontiac, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” 2004. The queen of talk shocked viewers when she gave all 276 audience members a Pontiac G-6 to mark the premiere of the show’s 13th season. The story crackled across the media, with “Saturday Night Live” spoofing Oprah’s emphatic, “Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!” Pontiac donated the vehicles and paid the sales tax. Mark-Hans Richer, who is now Harley Davidson CMO (see No. 5), helped engineer the promotion when he was an executive at GM.


3. Staples, “The Office,” 2006. It might ordinarily be tough to effectively work in a retailer that competes with the show’s Dunder Mifflin, but in a 2006 episode Kevin goes nuts with a Staples MailMate shredder, eventually shredding lettuce into a salad. When a coworker asks where he got the salad, he says, “Staples.” The big-box store went on to produce a Dunder Mifflin line of paper.


And etc.


Show: Fox’s 24: Live Another Day Is a Totally Owned Subsidiary of Chrysler Motors

As the hardtracking staff has noted, the Fox broadcast network has pimped out the entire sixth season of the The Jack Bauer Project to the redesigned Chrysler 200, which “will do in-show integration; media exclusivity in key episodes; season-long placement of the redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200 and customized digital content and experiences [whatever that is],” according to MediaPost.

Exhibit A of the customized digital content:



Sell on, Jack.

Or is that sell out?


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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