Netflix is paying The Atlantic a sum in the six figures to create a lengthy, reported article with interactive charts and a video exploring the dynamic between certain U.S. presidents and their wives -- including the fictitious first couple in the Netflix original series "House of Cards."
The article, called "The Ascent," is a native ad created by The Atlantic's in-house marketing shop, Re:think, and appeared on The Atlantic's website on Wednesday. It promotes the third season of "House of Cards."
It is an interesting piece, especially if you're really into first couples -- although anyone who is that into first couples probably knows topics covered already.
Still, the quality of the production is striking. And flashy, in-depth native ads are becoming a staple of Netflix's marketing playbook. It's the third large native ad the streaming service has financed in less than a year. The first appeared on Wired.com last May and covered the future of TV. The second native ad, which ran on The New York Times website, looked at women's prisons as a way of promoting another Netflix original series, "Orange is the New Black."
A Netflix spokeswoman did not return an email. Netflix media agency MEC declined to comment.
Netflix has already advertised season three of "House of Cards," which became available nearly two weeks ago, in media including digital banner ads and print. But the purpose of the first-couples native ad is to both encourage people to watch the show and drive awareness of Netflix, according to Sam Rosen, VP-marketing at The Atlantic.
"We're trying to build a fan base here and a loyal audience," he said.
For The Atlantic, it's a far cry from two years ago, when internet commenters pilloried the magazine for posting on its website a native ad promoting Scientology. The Atlantic didn't create that ad, according to Hayley Romer, VP-publisher at The Atlantic. But the debacle did lead the magazine to establish and publish guidelines for sponsored content.
"The biggest takeaway from the Scientology situation was that we weren't thinking about what the reader would want," she said.
Native advertising is now an important part of The Atlantic's revenue mix. It fueled a 31% increase in ad sales last year, an Atlantic spokeswoman said. Re:think, which has 15 full-time staffers, worked on about 100 custom campaigns in 2014 for brands like Chevron, All State, Lincoln and Rolex, the spokeswoman added. The Atlantic plans to grow Re:think's staff by 50% this year.
Atlantic executives declined to discuss specifics about the company's revenue.