From advertorials to native ads: beautiful Shell ad in NYT

Submitted by: Print Power 21/11/2014


This week the New York Times published it’s first ever so-called native ad in its print edition. An 8-pager for Shell, although references to the company are minimal. Native advertising is a hype in the advertising industry. (The Autumn issue of the Print Power magazine covers the subject in much more detail). Especially in the digital channels. It is described as sponsored content, which is relevant to the consumer experience, not interruptive and looks and feels similar to its editorial environment. Sounds familiar? Yes, this is exactly what advertorials are. Print ads packed as if they are part of the editorial content. Publishers and brand owners used them for years. Borrowing the credibility of the media brand in favour of the advertised brand. Mixing editorial content with paid content. Leading on the web very often to branded content.

The New York Times has always been opposing to branded content and native ads in the print edition of the newspaper. Although online native advertising has been used, the NYT was critical towards the use in print, because of the blurred lined between editorial and paid content. And also because the content of the ad should be at the same level as the editorial content. This week they introduced the first ever native ad in print. Meredith Levien, EVP of advertising for the Times, said the Times has fielded interest from advertisers but hasn’t run a native ad in print until now because the ads in question weren’t worthy of the real estate. “We wanted to do branded content at the highest level possible to capture the reader’s attention in a manner that’s befitting the Times,” she said.

The Shell ad is an eight-page section that is used differently in the subscribers and newsstand issue. Subscribers receive the section wrapped around the newspaper, whereas the newsstand version uses the ad as a wrap for the business section. The ad itself is spectacular and integrates different paper qualities, digital technologies and data visualisation. The cover is a transparent and introducing the theme. Some pages are augmented via Blippar and show two four-minute videos with a call to action to visit the Shell global website. The ad is a great example of how newspapers can present important content in a very innovate and striking way. With the use of Augmented Reality it also offers the brand to link readers immediately to online content and stimulates interactivity. Of course the content is also available online.


The project was produced by the NYT department T-brand Studio, which seems like another trend. Not Shell’s creative agency was responsible for the content and style, but a publisher and it’s in-house department. With advertising shifting from paid to earned and owned media, traditional agencies will also have to adapt.

Ulbe Jelluma | Print Power