Native Advertising Is Nothing New (and Here’s Proof)

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You had us at “Dom Perignon”

We already knew this, but yesterday The Awl posted a nice history of “native ads”, aka “advertorials.”

Yes, it’s long—but you should read it anyway. While you’re here, though, you should click through for some images of vintage native ads.

Oh hey, remember the 90’s? Here they are in the form of a special Dr. Marten’s section:

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Now back to the Awl piece: the “80-page advertorial to mark the opening of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel” found by contributor Adrienne LaFrance is particularly fascinating. Most interestingly, the publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser in which it appeared qualified his glowing “editorial” review of the hotel by noting that “This is not a paid write-up nor an ad” despite the fact that the section itself was, in fact, paid content.

In other words, the “Faustian bargain” between advertising and editorial is nothing new—and journalists have always viewed the hybrid with a wary eye. LaFrance points out some additional examples of editors trying desperately to convince readers not to look away from paid content, because it covered the bills at many publications long before anyone had a wi-fi connection.

By the way, do you want to charter a private jet? It certainly makes sound business sense.


Via Boing Boing, here’s a cool one for Space Mountain signed by the editors of the (unknown) mag in which it appeared to give it some extra cred.

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See, everyone did it; we’ve described The New York Times as a recent convert, but the Grey Lady published paid “editorial” for Mobil way back in 1975, too.

Smart minds in PR and marketing know that native/sponsored is just a new way of classifying an age-old practice; we can guarantee you that the brands paying for these “fluff pieces” back in the day also insisted that they flow “seamlessly” into editorial, even if they didn’t use the same phrases we use now. LaFrance even highlights a 2005 case in which critics charged The New Yorker, of all places, with disguising its advertorial cartoons for sponsor Target.

The story and these examples we found with a simple Google images search are just nifty reminders that what might seem new is anything but.

Don’t expect the “debate” to end anytime soon.