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What You Need to Know About the WSJ’s New Native Advertising Hybrid

The Wall Street Journal and Adobe just unveiled an interesting new advertising hybrid, and it could usher in a new standard for native ad strategy.

CMO Today, the WSJ‘s new blog for marketing executives, is supported by two primary forms of sponsored content:

Underwritten sponsored content, where a single brand sponsors editorial content, but has no influence over it.

Custom sponsored content, which is either created by the brand or the publisher on behalf of the brand.

As you can see in the image below, these two types of sponsored content live side-by-side on the CMO Today homepage. WSJ editorial content exists on the left, underwritten by Adobe, the sole sponsor of the section. Content from Adobe’s own digital magazine, CMO.com, appears on the right, geared towards the same audience, but created by Adobe with no involvement from The Journal.

Smart partnership

The partnership is a smart move for both parties; Adobe gets to present their branded content to The Journal‘s high-powered audience, and The Journal gets a “significant investment” from Adobe that will fund the new blog, without sacrificing the integrity of its editorial.

“[T]here is absolutely no blurring of the line between editorial and advertising,” WSJ Head of Global Media Sales Trevor Fellows told MediaPost. “We’re unequivocally opposed to that.”

While the line between WSJ editorial and Adobe’s branded content advertising is made abundantly clear, the partnership wouldn’t work if Adobe published self-promotional slop. But The Wall Street Journal can reliably trust the quality of CMO.com because Adobe has been publishing quality content on the site for nearly five years, geared toward “helping CMOs and senior marketers lead their brands in this new digital world,” according the site’s About page.

As brands become more sophisticated publishers and create high-quality niche content, the number of partnerships like this could easily increase. Why couldn’t Red Bull, for instance, sponsor ESPN’s X Games section and run their excellent extreme sports content alongside it? For the right price, why couldn’t American Express sponsor The New York TimesYou’re the Boss small business blog and run OPEN Forum content on the homepage?

In very meta fashion, one of CMO Today’s first pieces asks, “Does Sponsored Content Work For Advertisers?The Wall Street Journal and Adobe are betting that the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!”

Update: Jack Marshall, the author of that very meta “Does Sponsored Content Work For Advertisers?” piece, has informed me that this isn’t a totally new form of native advertising for The Journal. They’ve been doing something fairly similar with Deloitte on CIO Journal.

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Image by KatePfeilschiefter
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