Sponsored content is almost as old as publishing itself
Native advertising is very much just a part of this ongoing relationship. Native advertising as a term may be relatively new, but the concept of native advertising has been around for a very long time.
A great example is David Ogilvy’s Guinness Guide to Oysters – that he created way before native advertising as a term – or as a marketing discipline – was in existence.
The Guinness Guide to Oysters: Great Native Advertising
One of the often quoted earliest examples of native advertising that you see referenced is David Ogilvy’s famous Guinness Guide to Oysters, 1950. He wrote about it in his highly popular Confessions of an Advertising Man, explaining how he got the idea whilst travelling by train back from New York City to his Connecticut home.
The idea is simple – and very common to content marketers and native advertisers today, but in 1950 was a revolution. Instead of promoting how amazing Guinness was as a product, Ogilvy and his copywriter Peter Geer created content that gave valuable insight into nine varieties of oyster. The oysters were illustrated, and descriptions and information on each appeared beneath. Of course there was reference to Guinness within some of the copy – and a bottle of Guinness adorns the bottom right of the guide; for example:
“Oysters go down best with Guinness, which has long been regarded as the perfect complement for all sea-food.”
But there were also long passages of interesting copy: “Green port: These oysters have a salty flavour all their own. They were a smash hit with the whalers who shipped out of Greenport in olden days. Oysters contain iron, copper, iodine, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, Vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. The Emperor Tiberius practically lived on oysters.”
You can almost imagine, can’t you – in the days before Wikipedia – a New York commuter reading the above passage from the advert in a magazine, saving the page, and sharing these snippets of information about oysters with his family over dinner when returning home. Simplistic perhaps: but I would almost certainly bet that many men – and it was largely only men commuting in the 1950s – did just that as a result of reading this ad.
Native Advertising or Content Marketing?
The Guinness Guide to Oysters is, essentially, a piece of native advertising, before the phrase existed. Many describe it as content marketing before content marketing. You could argue it is this, too, but given that Ogilvy distributed this content via paid for media – and it was ultimately created to be distributed as an advertisement – not as a piece of content for a catalogue or company guide, for example – make this native advertising before it is anything else.