Native advertising went full meta in 2016. As the gravitational pull of technology continues to pull every aspect of our lives into the digital netherworld, we’re learning there is an unlimited capacity to stack brands upon brands, messages into other messages, and advertising into other forms of advertising. It’s a universe without marketing boundaries. And we love it!
So, without further ado, here are our top Native Advertising examples for 2016. (And don’t forget to check out some of our past picks here to see how far we’ve come.)
Homegate & 20 Minuten
Who wouldn’t want a black hole in their house? Or to live in a giant strawberry? And don’t tell Princess Llaria she can’t have smiling shrubbery and transforming stars in her castle. Swiss real estate company Homegate pulled off the ultra meta campaign by integrating its brand into the vibrant imaginations of children using Oculus Rift technology. To create native advertising for Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten, Homegate – in conjunction with the Bandara agency and film production company Frame Engine – asked children to draw their dream houses. The three most creative renderings were brought to life in virtual reality. The expression on the kids’ faces are priceless, but they’ll probably never be satisfied with having their drawings taped to the refrigerator door again.
GE’s “The Message” Podcast
Here at Outbrain, we love our podcasts, so no surprise that this Webby-winner would also be one of our top picks. The 8-part series was co-produced by GE (with their agency BBDO) who also worked in collaboration with Panoply Media (Slate’s podcast network). The #1 podcast on iTunes ended up being a hit, garnering a million-plus listeners. GE came up with the original concept that blends sci-fi and real life, following the main protagonist as she attempts to decode a 70-year-old message from outer space in her job at an encryption think tank. Additional online content allows viewers to dig deeper into the show. This was a new medium for GE and following the success of MailChimp’s sponsorship of “Serial,” it looks like the podcast is becoming another go-to touchpoint for brands to reach their audiences.
Mack Weldon & SXSW Comedy Bang Bang Podcast
“Don’t like my underwear? Why don’t you choke on it.” Mack Weldon, the New York-based men’s underwear brand, visited the Comedy Bang Bang Podcast this year in SXSW, and pulled off an unlikely live native advertising campaign offering genuine hilarity that resonated throughout communal online spaces like Reddit. As a result, Mack Weldon’s sales doubled. In the podcast, comedian Paul F. Tompkins plays a microbe-loathing Mack Weldon executive who, along with the podcast’s hosts, critiques the physique, mannerisms – and, yes, the Mack Weldon underwear, T-shirt, and socks – being showcased by a male model. Though there was a clear native advertising strategy behind this campaign, Mack Weldon scored big because it had faith in the talent of the participants and the scary but undeniable power of spontaneity to create unparalleled branded moments.
Bacardi & Goldroom Online Scavenger Hunt
Exclusivity has deep roots in aspirational advertising, but Bacardi’s 2016 collaboration with BBDO and electronic music artist Goldroom, aka Josh Legg, infused the concept with a native twist by integrating the VIP treatment into the digital experience. To locate and claim 10 pairs of free tickets on Goldroom’s website, fans have to activate Google Chrome’s incognito mode – an option most use when they want their browsing histories to disappear – which launches a special landing page promoting a unique scavenger hunt. Fans who hack through the online clues receive backstage concert tickets and access to special tracks and an exclusive clip of Goldroom’s latest video.
New York Lottery & Powerball Drumroll
Though the year 2016 may forever be known as the year that our favorite artists, comics, and musicians passed away, it began as the year of the largest Powerball jackpot in U.S. history. To mark the occasion, the New York Lottery teamed up with McCann to give New Yorkers a continuous 12-hour live drum performance to celebrate their purchases of Powerball tickets. A simple idea, but fun and effective and perfectly suited – considering the cultural context and auditory and visual payoff of a 35-second video – for a YouTube campaign. For anyone who ever dreamed of being rich enough to be followed or preceded by a marching band as they went through their day, this – unless they actually won the lottery – was as close as they’d ever get.
These were just some of 2016’s most innovative native advertising campaigns. What do you think? What were your top picks for the year. Share in the comments below.