The Best Native Ads of 2016

Ben Young | December 15, 2016

What a year it’s been! As we close out the year and look to 2017 here are some of the best examples of native advertising.

How did we find these? Each week we share campaigns of the week in This Week in Native Ads and we’ve measured thousands of native campaigns throughout the year.

This year picking the best was harder than ever before, the bar has gone up, some of the standards set by Refinery29, NYTimes & Fortune last year are now the norm.



So how do you rise above? Great story telling, good concepts and a smooth experience. Some nice executions didn’t make the cut as they were over-engineered, rather than telling a simple clear story. Story, story story.

You can download a presentation including all of these from here.

Best Native Inception: Programmatic and Native: A Perfect Match

A favorite category, native inception is native advertising for a native provider. A good sneak peak into the industry dogfooding but also good to follow as they know what they’re doing.

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In this partnership with Yahoo, Advertising Age lay it out, how marketers can use programmatic to excel in native. Great placement, niche, fast loading and does what it says on the box.

Best eCommerce: 11 Perfect Gifts For The Jet-Setting Couple In Your Life

Native is perfect for eCommerce brands, as they can showcase their products, share the story behind it and build the brand.

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11 Perfect Gifts for The Jet Setting Couple in Your Life — Says it right there in the title, helps bring in the right audience. The piece concludes with Guess Fragrances, our one tip would be to put the actual product supporting it much higher up, rather than all the way at the end. 1/3, 2/3 would be ideal.

Don’t be afraid to be overt about your product, people have clicked on good content that they want to read. And studies show, that millennial are less worried about brand sponsorship and more worried about quality.

“51% of people < 30 don’t care who creates the content they consume, as long as it’s entertaining or informative ” via TWINA.

Another Best eCommerce: How He Asked

Further, this one for James Allen is perfect, not sure about buying a ring online. Here’s a few thoughts on how to buy a diamond online, helping convert those that are on the fence. Simple, real utility, evergreen, great for continual distribution.

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Best Fashion: The Water Diviner

Fashion has been a little slower to take to native content but we really enjoyed this piece with Complex & Under Armor. With brand ambassador, Michael Phelps, has a snappy load time, great combo of brand, publisher and product. And of course, timed around the Olympics.

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Best Beauty: How to Copy Instagram’s Most Liked Celebrity Looks This Season

PopSugar nails it with How to Copy Instagram Most Liked Celebrity Looks This Season – wordy but you get the idea. In partnership with Sephora (and arguably a contender for best eCommerce) they break out how to replicate the look. Simple, smart, the team liked it.

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Best Travel: South London

A couple we really dug this year, what makes a great travel piece is one that is visual, takes you on a simple journey and includes multiple links to where you can find out more.

This Vice partnership with Airbnb about South London, brings you a taste of the culture. And the best way to experience that of course is to book an Airbnb.

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Another Best Travel: Discovering Dubai

We also thoroughly enjoyed Discovering Dubai on Travel + Leisure for Emirates. This familiar format gives you a day in the life, offering real utility to a traveler of things to do. Of course the best way to get there is Emirates. On the data side, for Emirates they can measure the uplift, and/or incrementality the content has created for additional bookings.

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Then over time, refine it, distribute the best content. A go-to strategy with native content.

 

Another Best Travel: More to the Maldives

Finally, another great reference is this piece on CN Traveller for Maldives. Exploring more takes you to a rich site with more content around the Maldives. Again a great piece for measuring through the funnel at how content can bring in a fresh audience.

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Best Finance: How to Nail the Job Interview

We’ve seen Imgur play to its strengths this year, in a way creating more socially engaging content than BuzzFeed, not at the same scale of course. But this execution with SoFi stood out, How to Nail the Job Interview. Not just for the tactic but also the creativity.

Real practical tips, on how to nail the job interview and ‘adult better.’ Creative that pulls the Imgur audience in but also got viral lift. Imgur has made campaign of the week a few times this year. Further, the format works seamlessly across mobile and desktop.

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Another Best Finance: Your Guide to Investing Across the Globe

Broadly finance executes really well within the space, we particularly liked this recent execution with BusinessInsider and iShares. Your guide to investing across the globe with deep dives into particular areas.

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Best Auto: Discover the Hidden Beauty of New York with Paul Jung

A great auto piece draws the audience in and shows them how the vehicle will suit their lifestyle. This Range Rover with Paul Jung, part of their design series for the Range Rover Evoque, pairing creators with the latest in the Range Rover Line up.

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Another Best Auto: The Clearhouse Elevates New Home Design to New Heights

Further, this Jeep execution with curbed, sells the lifestyle the curbed audience wants, whilst linking clearly back to Jeep, helping the audience see the brand in a new light.

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Tactically both of these executions are perfect for seeing the uplift in purchase intent – a dominant trend Nudge is seeing in the market.

 

Best Entertainment: Gaming the American Dream 

The one we all love to love, is entertainment brands. As noted in our research reports, movies go to is video & trailers, it’s been more intellectual narratives for tv playing in native content. With Netflix’s early success here, we’ve seen Epix, Hulu & Showtime all follow suit with these pieces.

The common thread of these pieces is telling a narrative that fits the audience and the content is improved by the existence by the brand.

Billions on WSJ — Gaming the American Dream talks about the history of hedge funds, how they got to where they are and concludes with the premiere episode of Billions.

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Another Best Entertainment: Stranger Things on Obscura

Stranger Things was the cult classic late summer and this execution on Atlas Obscura really brought it to life, exploring the secrete life of a long island military installation. Building intrigue for the show.

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Another Best Entertainment: Narcos

Following last years Cocainenomics, we loved Narcos revisiting with Wired & Netflix. Great story, fit with audience, leads in to the show. We love the blend of show content in the WSJ piece.

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Notable Mention: Follow the Money

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Another Best Entertainment: Hulu + Mindy Project

An excellent piece of content on Apartment Therapy, showing how to recreate the screens from the show. It highlights the detail in the show but also is the kind of content the audience is after.

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Best Technology/Software: Carrying the Digital Torch

In our research reports we have noted in the past, that Technology has a bit opportunity as the work tends to be holding itself back, overtly aware of their tech savvy audience being skeptical of advertising. Whereas those that lean in and acknowledge this by producing great content are winning.

Adobe – anchoring around the Olympics. They did a wide array of executions supporting the Olympics, helping guide the tech angle. Great timing and drawing the right audience in. Showing that tech doesn’t have to be boring.

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Another Best Technology/Software: An Honest History of Hacking

BitDefender on WSJ, an honest history of hacking, digs in to the real cost of cybercrime.

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Notable Mention Best Technology/Software: Microsoft Cloud on WSJ

Showing the practicalities of the cloud for enterprise.

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Best Food & Drink: 14 Avocado Snacks You Should Make Today… And For… Ever

Avocados from Mexico – again! Their proposition is so simple, just remind people of it. Classic CPG approach, just get mindshare, as we know for millennials content is the best way of doing this.

This partnership with BuzzFeed shows you 14 avocado snacks you should make today, Simple, each, extendable. The only feature this year from BuzzFeed his year.

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Another Best Food & Drink: Simple Recipes to Try Now

The other example we liked was PureWow with SimpleBeverages. You hit the Pin Button to reveal the recipe, a little convoluted but obviously helps a Pinterest-centric brand leverage native content.

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Best Professional Services / B2B: Brick & Mortar is Dead

Native content is a great entry point for B2B / professional services brands. This example on The Atlantic for Pitney Bowes really drills home the death of brick and mortar with a hook at the end (it’s not really it’s just changing). Pitiney can help guide you if you are in the brick and mortar.

A great tactic here, draw people in on a topic only your audience would be interested in, use the publisher to get in front of that audience and link back through to a business objective.

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Best Alcohol: Scotch Stories to Savor

Alcohol brands were an early adopter of native content, with most of our own early work for alcohol brands. Also perfect for purchase intent measurement, seeing how audiences go and consider buying.

Scotch Stories in partnership with Travel + Leisure this gets in to the stories behind a few whisky brands. Also, a nice way of bringing together a few smaller or niche advertisers and sharing the investment. Creative, beautiful and just what a whiskey drinker is after- the story behind it.

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Another Best Alcohol: The Best Dress Less Stressed Guest Dinner Party

Further, The Best Dress Less Stressed Guest Dinner Party with Dewars and InsideHook.

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Another Best Alcohol: Thrillist’s Ultimate Guide to Cognac

Notable example from Thrillist.

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Best Luxury: TasteMasters

Luxury is an emerging category in native content, with a lack of transparency and efficacy in media and influencer content, native brings brandsafe, transparent and efficient environments for luxury brands. Further with millennials fast becoming the key market for luxury brands and a greater emphasis on the US market – they’re primed for content.

Luxury brands enjoy the transparency of content and seeing how it contributes to the buying journey – and also what better way to share their story.

We liked these two examples, Park Hyatt partnered with T Brand Studio to produce the Tastemasters. Brand safe environment, 100% share of voice. This could improve with a simpler storytelling but a great start.

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Another Best Luxury: The Future of Business Travel

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This is just one we enjoyed: Guide to Cat Ownership

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Emerging Formats: AMP

Speed impacts CTR and engagement, this recent example with VentureBeat & Undertone is a great example. Mobile introduces new challenges around measurement and attribution, but tools like ours are readily accessible here.

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Emerging Formats: 360 Video

Popularised by Facebook, this WSJ example brings it to the open web.
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Haven’t seen any notable examples here, IAB predicts VR advertising will be more of a staple in 2017. With sales behind forecasts we believe audiences at this stage are too limited. But one to keep an eye on.

Emerging Formats: Podcast

Panoply over at Slate has killed it, jumping on the podcast bandwagon and smartly commercialising it. A favorite was the GE The Message podcast they produced – hitting #1 in the podcast store. Measurement is notably challenging here but SpokenLayer have some emerging solutions for it. Further Gimlet media is worth a watch.

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A couple of others I would recommend are OutBrains Best Native of 2016 and Native Advertising Institutes Native of Year Awards.

To keep up to date with the latest, make sure you subscribe to This Week in Native Ads at the bottom of this post, and/or check out our research reports.

 


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