What’s Next for Branded Content?

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Hand writing the word Content

As proof of the dictum that everything old is new again, the advertorial rises once again as native advertising—branded content that’s designed to look and read like editorial content. But just how effective is native advertising for Tech B2B audiences?

Digiday recently published a couple articles that attempt to answer that question and point to where branded content is headed next.

According to Lucia Moses in her article Hype watch: Does native advertising really perform as well as editorial?, many ad executives claim that, in terms of response rates, “there’s little difference between journalism produced by a brand and by a news outlet.” But Moses points out that there’s not much independent research to back up the claim.

In fact, in a study by Chartbeat (which McBru reported on earlier this spring), readers are able to identify sponsored content, and the more clearly content is identified as native, the lower the response rate: “Chartbeat studied the click-through rates of clearly identified native ads and found them to be between one-tenth and one-third of the surrounding editorial content. When visitors do click on sponsored posts, they were twice as likely to leave sponsored content than editorial content without scrolling down the page.”

So does that mean that native advertising is ineffective? Not at all—but for branded content to perform as well as regular editorial content, it has to be of the same quality. And that means that advertisers need access to writers and designers who can produce content that’s smart and appealing.

Building audiences is something that marketers know a lot about, but for most marketers, creating content is secondary to other activities. For branded content program to be effective, the content can’t be an after-thought.

Why is branded content and native advertising resurgent? Digiday spoke with John Shankman, founder of Hashtag Labs, about Where Brand Content Goes Next. According to Shankman, brands are on their way to becoming their own distribution channels. “A brand like Coca-Cola with 82.9 million Facebook fans has as much distribution power as the networks used to have. The gatekeeper has been taken away, and now production is where the value’s at.”

Shankman sees a rosy future for media companies and agencies that can work with brands to create branded content. But once again, the effectiveness of these brand-advertising programs depends on content quality: “People are going to want to consume content from a certain point of view,” says Shankman. “We need to prove that these branded productions can be as high quality as editorial.”

The take-away from these Digiday articles? If your business is considering native advertising using branded content, make sure that your strategy involves expert content creation from the very beginning. Your audience is smart—deliver content that’s interesting, intelligent or just plain fun, and you’ll succeed in making the brand connections (and CTRs) that can help drive business.

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