Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

See? Native Ads Don’t Have to Be Awful.

Adland loves “native ads,” the new/old concept where an ad pretends to be “content.”

I’m not sold. Not because of ethical issues, but because most native ads are lousy.

The one big exception: Native ads formatted as interesting videos. Which is really just another way of describing “commercials you would like to watch.”

Here are a couple examples that work, from IAC’s CollegeHumor, on behalf of Coca-Cola’s Vitaminwater brand:

No surprise that CollegeHumor is able to make entertaining (or at least interesting, with perhaps a tinge of uneasy-making) videos, since that’s what they do all the time. And they’ve been integrating sponsors into their stuff for a long time, too.

In this case, CollegeHumor founder Ricky Van Veen says, the process was simple: “We pitched Vitamin Water ideas, they picked a few, and we produced/distributed.”

The GPS prank clip, released a week ago, has already done around three million views, Van Veen says. The subway prank just went up a few days ago, but Van Veen says it is likely to do better: The clip isn’t on YouTube yet, but it has already generated three times more Facebook shares than the car clip.

One difference between this and other native ad campaigns: Van Veen says all of the views the videos have generated so far are organic — CollegeHumor hasn’t paid for any of the distribution.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik