It was a great year for native ads in 2015. As is always the case, though, same ads stood out more than others.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of native ads, they’re ads that “blend in” with the overall content on a website. For all intents and purposes, they look just like another article on the site. However, they’re really ads.

Here are the top native ads from 2015.

  1. Cocainenomics

Netflix is the company that pioneered the whole idea of “binge-watching” (shows of all sorts). Last year, that company teamed up with The Wall Street Journal to advertise its new TV show, Narcos.

The result was a fabulous piece of journalism that not only promoted the show, but also offered insight into the history of cocaine, the economics behind the drug trade, and the biography of Pablo Escobar (who’s the primary villain in Narcos).

It was a perfect blend of two typically disparate concepts (drugs and finance journalism) in a creative way that effectively generated buzz about the show.

  1. Backyard Fun From a… Bank?

You probably wouldn’t associate the idea of backyard fun with Chase bank. Yet, the company ran a native ad promoting that exact idea.

Even better: Chase ran the ad on BuzzFeed. Yes, the same BuzzFeed that’s known for cat videos.

Think about it though: Chase is a brand that has something to offer almost everybody. That’s because almost everybody needs banking and other financial services at some point.

In a nutshell: the Chase target market includes people from BuzzFeed.

That’s why it was especially clever for the company to come up with a native ad that mimicked one of the countless “listicles” that are found on that site. In this case, the article was entitled: “16 Fun Ways to Make Your Backyard Funtastic This Summer.”

At the very end of the content, Chase offered this little pitch: “Use your cash back from your Chase Freedom card for a little extra summer fun.”

Straight and to the point. The ad was a classic example of building brand name awareness.

  1. Lincoln Continental: Classy as Always

One of the best ways to promote your product, especially if you associate your brand with elegance, is to use photos. Lincoln did just that by announcing the surprise launch of the Continental with a native ad on The Verge.

The ad is filled with high-quality photography that’s sure to impress even the most discriminating automobile connoisseur. It’s also enough to make people who aren’t car enthusiasts drool. It’s a classic example of showcasing the features of a product in way that’s going to make potential buyers sit up and take notice.

  1. Morgan Stanley’s New Math

The Atlantic is a well-known publication that caters to a wide audience. That’s why it’s no surprise that Morgan Stanley ran a native ad on that company’s website with entitled “The New Math of Sustainable Investing.”

The ad is meant to portray Morgan Stanley as an authority in its domain. It’s effective in accomplishing that with content featuring sound principles of investment that’s backed up by the company’s own research. Further, the content also makes liberal use of images and tables.

  1. Netflix Again

Netflix hit another homerun with a native ad that ran in The Atlantic. In this case, the ad was promoting the infamous first couple in the hit TV show House of Cards.

The ad, entitled “Political Destiny and the Makings of a First Couple,” starts with the following quote by former President Ronald Reagan: “In some ways, Nancy and I are like one human being.”

The ad is an article about First Couples, or the presidents we’ve elected and their spouses. Eventually, the ad gets around to describing Frank and Claire Underwood.

Frank Underwood has never actually been elected president of the United States. He’s a fictitious president in House of Cards. However, the article describes him and his wife as though they’ve been in the White House along with the rest of them.

It’s an absolutely clever way to merge reality with fiction for promotional purposes.

It’s worth noting that the ad never says: “Watch House of Cards.” Instead, it’s an effort to generate some buzz.

Wrapping It Up

Native ads are a great way to reach people in your target market. Fortunately, there are many fantastic ads from last year’s crop that you can use for inspiration.