The New York Times’ First Native Print Ad Features Slick Infographics, Augmented Reality Videos

"MARKETING" Sketch Notes on Blackboard (advertising management)
Native advertising has been a staple on the internet for some time, but now advertisers can even look to print to distribute branded information that blends in with editorial content.

On Nov. 19, the New York Times unveiled an eight-page section of native ads for Shell titled “Cities Energized: The Urban Transition,” which illustrates the link between smart urban design and energy efficiency. The section appears online in the paper’s digital edition, as well.

The “advertorial” comes wrapped around the paper’s home-delivered copies (or around the business section for newsstand copies). The top sheet of the section is opaque vellum, so users can flip back and forth between the infographic on the cover and one underneath it on newsprint to see figures on urbanization throughout the world.

The print ads also feature “augmented reality” pages: readers can use the Blippar app to watch a video when they hold their smartphones over the page.

The goal of this particular campaign was to establish Shell as an expert on energy, with as few mentions of the company as possible.

The placement of Shell’s native advertising sparked debate among readers and analysts at Digiday, where the site noted that although native ads have “largely been an online phenomenon,” they’ve been slow to come to print. The Times, they say, have been sensitive to criticism of native advertising as “trying to truck the reader into thinking it’s editorial content.”

But Meredith Levien, executive vice president of advertising at the New York Times , defended the spread, saying that until now, previous native ad ideas never came to fruition because they weren’t worth the amount of space they would take up.

Levien told Digiday, “We wanted to do branded content at the highest level possible to capture the reader’s attention in a manner that’s befitting the Times.”

The ad was created by the New York Times ‘ in-house native ad production team T Brand Studio, in conjunction with Shell’s media agency MediaCom. The Shell native ad took about three months to complete.

“This type of campaign has a ton of upswing and we’ll see more and more like it,” comments Scott Trueblood, President of BrandVision Marketing, a full-service marketing agency. “There’s always going to be the concern of appearing too editorial and upsetting readers when they realize that they have been reading ad content. Shell was wise to minimize their company mentions in the piece and to just let the content do the selling for them. That subtle approach to a sales pitch is far more embraced by a reader who is caught up in the content of an article.”

Although a total price for the advertisement was not listed by either company, the New York Times‘s charge for content creation is estimated at a minimum of $200,000 alone.

The Shell ad arrives at a time when print advertising is on the decline for some publishers. Time Inc. announced earlier this month that the company had lowered its yearly revenue forecast due to a weaker-than-expected print ad sales from a $3.3 billion to $3.37 billion projection in August to a $3.27 billion to $3.3 billion projection now.

“The multi-media approach with the use of the app is also an instant winner for print users,” states Trueblood. “It creates layers of touch-points for the consumer and a great way to absorb information across platforms.”

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