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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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald