Native Ads for FX's 'Louie' Take Over New York Mag's Vulture.com

Likely Cost Six Figures

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The 'Louie' takeover likely cost six figures.
The 'Louie' takeover likely cost six figures.
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Louie C.K. is getting the native-ad treatment from New York magazine.

To promote the season five premiere of "Louie," the half-hour FX sitcom featuring the comedian, the cable network paid New York to create a Vulture.com homepage populated with six pieces of branded content, including articles, graphics and videos about the show.

Vulture is New York magazine's entertainment and pop culture website. Its audience has grown sharply in the last year, up 87% in February to 6.8 million unique visitors across desktop and mobile devices, according to ComScore.

The "Louie"-inspired takeover will appear when readers land on Vulture.com on Thursday. They'll notice that it looks identical to Vulture.com -- hence the term "native ad."

Atop the homepage, next to the Vulture logo, is language that says, "Taken Over by Louie." Articles, such as a child-rearing cheat sheet from Louie C.K. and an infographic showing his connection to various comedians and celebrities, carry labels that says "Sponsor Story" above the headline.

New York's creative-services department produced the content while working with FX's agency Moxie. The magazine's editorial staff did not contribute to the project.

"This is the largest custom-content program we've done on Vulture so far," said Larry Burstein, New York's publisher. "It's sponsored content people will really enjoy."

Mr. Burstein declined to say how much FX paid for the native-ads, which are part of a larger digital-ad buy that includes display ads for "Louie" and another FX show, "The Comedians," running on Vulture and New York's main website. People familiar with large custom-content ad campaigns said this program likely cost in the six figures.

New York magazine, which last year halved its print frequency to about twice monthly, generates between 50% and 55% of its revenue from digital advertising, according to Mr. Burstein. He said sponsored content is now part of nearly every advertising program New York sells.

Native-advertising programs have helped lift revenue across the media industry as publishers create shinier and more elaborate custom articles and videos for brands. So far, some of the splashiest native ads have come from Netflix, which has worked with Wired, The New York Times and The Atlantic on immersive articles about the future of TV, women in prison and presidential couples.

But questions remain about native-advertising's profit margins -- it is, after all, more expensive to create articles and videos for a brand than run a print or digital display ad -- as well the effectiveness of this form of advertising. Does it, for instance, actually drive viewership of a TV show?

"We'll see if people tune in to 'Louie' on Thursday night," Mr. Burstein said.