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‘Don’t Make a Commercial’: The Onion’s CCO Explains Why So Much Content Marketing Sucks
By: Contently
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The realest joke in all of marketing came three years ago in the form of an Onion article.

As the entire media industry salivated over sponsored content as the new savior of publishing business models everywhere, The Onion released its Michelangelo: “Sponsored Content Pretty F*cking Awesome.” It revealed the naked absurdity of native advertising in a way that a blog post from Jeff Jarvis or Michael Wolfe never could:
“I would say that I’m happiest when I’m being taken advantage of and duped into reading what is essentially a company’s propaganda disguised as actual editorial content,” said Colorado resident Colin Portman, adding that he wanted to personally thank media publications for regularly including sponsored content in their production schedules. “See, when I’m reading an article and then I have to take a step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, the font, writing style, and overall tone is like the website I typically enjoy, but this is actually an advertisement for a car company,’ I smile and just keep on reading. It’s like a treat.”
After that post was published, however, a funny thing happened: The Onion became one of the industry’s most effective creators of sponsored content. Its in-house agency, Onion Labs, grew quickly, and 90 percent of The Onion’s advertising deals now have a custom content component. That custom content has a reputation for being pretty damn funny—like this absurd video for Allegra that shows a woman petting sponges. While other publishers struggle to effectively present sponsored content to readers, The Onion does it well by making fun of itself, prompting readers with calls-to-action teasers like: “Click on this link and know the rush of being part of journalism’s decay. Brought to you buy Four Loko.” While many media companies are burning through VC cash, The Onion is profitable, largely thanks to its native ad deals.


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About the Author
This article was first published by Contently.com. A link to the original can be found at the bottom of the post. www.contently.com
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