A Shot in the Arm for ‘Branded Content’

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Image: fourthsource.com

Forbes Media has been at the forefront of so-called branded content, which blends advertising messages with editorial.  Those consumers looking at Forbes Web pages with branded content were 41% more likely to express an intent to buy the brand compared with those who saw a regular Web page with no branded content, according to a new study by IPG Media and commissioned by Forbes. Will the study assuage those media types who are skeptical about branded content?

IPG surveyed 2,259 participants from Forbes.com and showed them Web pages from the site with branded content from ads in three verticals (automotive, liquor and finance services).

The study also explored native advertising, which is another form of branded content.  According to the study, when consumers saw branded content that was paired with a display ad from the same brand they were more likely to recall that brand than if they had looked at a page sans branded content or ads.

The study underscores the increasingly clout of branded content. As PR execs work more closely with their advertising counterparts, communicators will be tasked with driving branded content and native ad efforts.

With that in mind, here are few tips for PR people regarding native advertising, compliments of Sam Ford, director of audience engagement at Peppercomm.

1. Consider the level of transparency. Some “native advertising” has gotten a little too “native,” in the sense of forsaking proper disclosure. A range of providers now offers paid links connecting your content to (let’s hope) relevant material elsewhere. As agencies and brands use such services, we must be highly skeptical that these platforms are making it abundantly clear to the average audience member that this is paid content or a paid link.

2. Consider your audience. The whole concept behind storytelling as a brand is to share content about what your audience wants to know rather than what the company wants to say. A simple test for any content is to take off your PR and marketing shoes and look at the content from the audience’s perspective. Does it focus on issues and subjects that people are talking about outside of your brand? Or does everything tie directly back to your products and services? If it’s your company’s traditional advertising content, that’s not “native” at all; it’s potentially an obtrusion.

3. Consider the context. You may have the right story to tell, but timing is everything. Is your content being shared at the places where audiences would welcome seeing it? Is it being shared alongside content that you would want your brand to have? Is it being shared in places your audiences populate? Too often, the right content ends up in the wrong context.

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1