AOL's hyperlocal news publisher Patch has taken native advertising to new heights by creating a branded site for the setting of Disney's new animated movie Planes.
The Propwash Junction Patch looks like any other Patch site, except that the content is entirely fictional: it has made up correspondents reporting on made up news that's happening in the make-believe town. There are even "ads" for establishments featured in the movie.
"If there's one thing we know how to do, it's celebrate towns and bring them together through our core platform," said Mark Josephson, svp of revenue and marketing at Patch.
The company wanted to explore native advertising opportunities, but it didn't want to recreate what other publishers have done, Josephson added.
"We wanted to do something that is unique that only we can do," he said, pointing out that creating a Patch for the town in the movie is a logical extension of the brand.
Absent from the site, though, is any explicit mention that what appears on the page is sponsored content, which could lead to confusion among casual readers. The company isn't worried, though.
"We're confident that it's clear that this is about a fictional town," Josephson said.
The Propwash Junction Patch went live on Monday and will stay up through early September. Planes hits theaters on August 9, meaning the site will need to stay fresh and active for the next month or so.
To get readers to the site, Patch is promoting the Propwash Junction page in the related content section of articles and in the navigation bar where nearby Patch sites are listed. The site will also be promoted on AOL.
While this site just got off the ground, Patch sites built around fictional towns could become commonplace, said Josephson. Take the holiday season, for instance. "It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that maybe we'd have a Patch for the North Pole," he said.