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The Guardian and Unilever: Between the Lines
By: Luke Willoughby
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One of the oldest and most established English-speaking news publications, The Guardian, has just announced its intentions to adopt native advertising practices. The London-based newspaper announced a "seven-figure" partnership with Unilever to promote "sustainability and open storytelling." This most recent breach into editorial credibility allows for a review of other native news pioneers, who have succeeded and failed under the glaring eye of their loyal readership.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal entered the native field through similarly ambiguous rollouts in the second half of 2013. Unlike The Guardian, there was no wide press release announcing their first entry into native ads. Certain large sponsors like Dell and Deloitte had campaigns last December that required the newspapers to respond to outcry against the ads' premium space, scripted in the same font and layout as the editorial content. But the words “Sponsored Content” and “Paid Advertorial” began appearing several months prior.
Other publications, outside the spectrum of daily news, had leapt into native opportunities earlier and more hastily. The Atlantic was blasted by its readership and spoofed by The Onion when they censored negative comments on their site regarding a sponsored article by The Church of Scientology. Conde Nast has adopted as much native programing as possible across its multiple outlets, especially within retail and beauty segments. Fashion bloggers are now hired extensively to use paying brands, or at least talk about them, across any available social media outlet.
Forbes Magazine was amongst the first into the native game, allowing brands and independent bloggers to post within the site as a new form of opinion-editorial (Op-Ed). As an early native execution it was harshly criticized, but it has since been adopted as a standard for native formatting, and potential revenues. Forbes marketing executives have been poached to develop native platforms in other publications like The Times and The Journal.
One might argue that these premier newspapers and magazines incorporate the world’s smartest people; in the writing, and through a readership that encompasses the brightest across all the world’s industries. The market has now produced a necessity for blurred tactics like native advertising, but as The Guardian has reviewed the successes and failures, it has witnessed the genuine sensory of an intelligent audience. It’s appropriate that the printed word would identify the underlying requirement for success in advertising, at least, from an intelligent perspective. Honesty.

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About the Author
Luke Willoughby works in the digital media landscape of New York across varying agencies and brands. He also has a background in video and content production, and is invested in the resurgence of the full-service advertising agency and the associated opportunities for the marketing industry. Originally from Denver, Colorado, he's a fan of most outdoor activities and otherwise enjoys reading and film.
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