Quartz, a New York-based, online-only magazine focused on world events and lifestyle topics, is mainly financed by native advertising and events. One of the best examples of its native approach is an annual campaign with Bank of America.

Quartz, owned by Atlantic Media, has produced a native advertising campaign for Bank of America each January since 2013, focusing on coverage of key topics discussed at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

The 2015 campaign won first place in INMA’s 2016 Global Media Awards competition for its high-quality content and strong campaign results. The company has renewed the campaign for 2017.

Interactive charts and graphics were the most popular aspect of the Bank of America native ad campaign.
Interactive charts and graphics were the most popular aspect of the Bank of America native ad campaign.

Topics for native advertising campaigns often emerge from topics readers care about. The journalists at Quartz call these hot topics or categories “obsessions” and include the mobile Web, digital money, energy, China, debt, and space.  

Though the native advertising side of Quartz is separate from editorial, both departments share the same focus on content obsessions and user experience, explains Matthew Chamberlain, senior director of branded content, who oversees all branded and native content in a creative capacity.

“We work totally separately from editorial,” Chamberlain says. “We know our audience follows Davos closely. We cover it our way and [editorial] covers it in their way. We are a separate operation and forging our own path. We want to go the direction our readers are going, and give the readers what they want.”

Bank of America and its advertising agency, Starcom, partnered with Quartz’s native advertising team to produce multi-media content on the Davos event, focused on the global economy, weather, education, and more.

Content includes text, charts, and “interactives,” or visual features that readers could query for more information. For example, on a map about global competitiveness, readers can drill down into details about competitive in many nations.

The interactive chart was the most popular branded content of the campaign, which drove more than 1,500 organic (non-paid) social sharing and commenting actions, as well as an interaction depth of more than five actions per user.

“We wanted to do this content on the branded side,” Chamberlain says. “Bank of America was the perfect partner. This was an opportunity to do something special with them in a native advertising campaign.”

Quartz engages a specific audience with deep interest in economic trends. Robust Bank of America branded content was designed with this type of reader in mind.
Quartz engages a specific audience with deep interest in economic trends. Robust Bank of America branded content was designed with this type of reader in mind.

Quartz’s native advertising team is comprised of about 10 members, including writers, graphics designers, engineers, and a project manager. For Bank of America, this robust team produced content related to the topics in Davos in real time, but remotely from New York and beyond. Team members set up a makeshift newsroom, where writers and researchers monitored news bulletins and social media feeds to inform their content.

Two months prior to the January conference, the team developed content based on the World Economic Forum’s robust Global Competitiveness Report, filled with data, graphics, and analysis about the most important economic trends around the world.

Bank of America has been motivated to reach Quartz’s affluent and influential, globally minded audience of about 16.8 million unique visitors in December 2015, up 65% from a year prior.

“As a strategic partner of the World Economic Forum, Bank of America looks for opportunities to extend the conversation happening at Davos to those around the globe obsessed with the global economy,” according to the INMA contest entry’s overview of the campaign.

“Quartz executed a branded content programme that put Bank of America at the front-and-center of the conversation with a thought leader audience, offering same-day, real-time coverage of the events unfolding in Davos along with companion data visualisations that incorporated the forum’s themes.”

Branded campaigns reportedly represent about one-third of the revenue for Quartz. As of the end of 2015, Quartz reported it had 105 new advertising accounts, including 60 new accounts in 2005, according to an internal memo. In 2015, revenue also came from six events on four continents.

The branded content was published during the January 2016 Davos summit, labeled “bulletins” from Bank of America. The branded items ran in the stream of editorial content about the forum, well labeled as sponsored content.

“Labeling is a major consideration for us in all of our programmes,” Chamberlain says. “We have rules in place in labeling at the article and social level. If you scroll one of the articles, there are three mentions that the article is sponsored as a bulletin by Bank of America, in the traditional byline space, and we have a disclaimer at the bottom of the article.

In addition to the header, we feel that at any point of the story, the reader will be able to discover this is a sponsored article. We follow the Federal Trade Commission guidelines issuing notification that anything we put out is sponsored.”

The biggest change in native advertising strategy at Quartz of late is the response to readers accessing this content on their mobile phones. This behaviour trend is driving in a more visual way to tell native advertising stories, Chamberlain says.

“The way in which you would try to appeal to the attention of someone in print or on the desktop Web is much different than how would you appeal to them on the mobile Web,” he says. “The way in which you would design a programme and the way in which you would write content are very different for the mobile Web.

“Quartz is designed and created around the idea of the mobile Web. It’s about visual storytelling and trying to find ways to show something visually instead of explaining with words and also getting to the point of the story.

We get right to the point. The way we talk to our readers is to the point, contained. That is all around of what how our audience likes to read and consume in the mobile age.”

Similarly, engagement is a key objective for the content. To optimise engagement, Quartz performs A/B testing on headlines for each portion of the coverage to drive traffic from social media and drive more time spent on each interactive, graphic, and text story.

INMA members: Click here to download released a strategic report, “Native Advertising Trends 2016: The News Media Industry.”