Native Ad Formats Continue To Evolve With Mesmerizing Netflix Ad Unit

Wired may have just released the most amazing native ad yet. Netflix partnered with Wired to create a highly customized and immersive experience called “TV Got Better.” As you scroll down on “TV Got Better,” you are presented with text, videos, and other multimedia about TV consumption trends and an interview with “Arrested Development’s” co-creator, Mitch Hurwitz. AdAge likens this new ad to the New York Times’ “Snow Fall” feature which won various awards for its in-depth look at an avalanche at Tunnel Creek. This ad unit shows the evolution of native ad formats that look more and more like the editorial content versus ads.

TV Got Better

The Execution of Netflix’s Native Ad

Wired traditionally attracts a tech-savvy audience who like to read stories on technology affecting our lives from a social and political perspective. The whole notion that cord-cutters will lead to the demise of traditional cable TV has been around for quite a while, and Netflix is right at the forefront of this revolution. There could not be a better audience for Netflix to present content around how streaming TV is the new way most people consume their TV shows, if you can even still call it TV.

A major tenet of advertising is making sure your message is seen or heard by the right audience. Boy did Netflix hit it right on the head with this ad.

The perfect execution of this native ad shows that branded content, if done correctly, can act as regular content that does not feel promotional for the brand paying for the content. One of the pitfalls of the “Snow Fall” feature on the New York Times was that annoying banner ads and would pop up as you are readying this dramatic story about an avalanche. The New York Times piece wasn’t even branded content, which shows the aversion readers have for traditional display ads vs. native ads.

Creating a Custom Integration vs. Sponsored Posts, Images, and Tweets

As you scroll through “TV Got Better,” you start to enjoy the act of scrolling to see the artistic nature of the ad format itself. Netflix invested a lot of time and financial resources to create this ad, and the result can deemed as a work of art in certain respects. If you are a big brand, does the right strategy mean creating these lavish custom brand content pieces, or can you go one level down to create more “efficient” native ads that achieve similar results?

To put this in an analogy, if you’re a baseball coach, do you tell your players to hit for the home run every single at-bat, or do you tell your players to take pitches and walks, and score runs slowly and steadily? I think if you are a big brand and have the purse to create these custom integrations on a media outlet, it is definitely worth the results. For smaller brands, you can achieve similar results by doing integrations on a smaller scale: sponsored posts, images, and Tweets. There are a ton of platforms out there (including Cooperatize) that help you do this at scale, but the issue is that the content will look less “beautiful” relative to something like what Netflix did.

Online Publications Create Special Native Content Divisions

The prevalence of native advertising on popular publications including Wired cannot go unnoticed. Wired is a physical magazine and online publication, and draws 30% of its revenue from native ads. As the number of native ad units increase on Wired, one can only wonder what content will be actual editorial and what content is branded. Perhaps the branded content will surpass editorial in terms of quality and execution one day.

WSJ Custom Studios

WSJ’s Native Ad Division – Custom Studios

Forbes BrandVoice

Forbes’ Native Ad Division – BrandVoice

The old battle between the actual journalists and advertisers is becoming more clear as ads like this are shared and read more than traditional editorial content. To separate the two, the Wired-Netflix ad hints that the branded content creates an “experience” for the reader that is so drastically different from traditional articles, that readers will have to know the content is branded. Creative Review points out that even though readers know the content is different and is clearly disclosed as sponsored, readers will engage and share the content anyway.

Good Enough To Share

To further build on this point, the purpose of native advertising is to mimic the look and feel of the editorial content surrounding it. Readers will share stories that are emotional and useful, so the question is whether or not branded content like “TV Got Better” has enough legs that people would want to share it organically. Or do readers just classify it as another ad, lumping it together with banner ads and homepage takeovers?

Native ad units, especially long-form content, has a higher chance of getting shared versus other ad formats, in my opinion. There are only so many interesting characters you can put in a Tweet, and images can only be so aesthetically pleasing. With a written story, you can capture and engage your reader’s attention so that they undeniably accept that the content is good and is an ad, but will share it anyway.