IAB Releases Content Marketing Primer

by , Dec 16, 2013, 7:00 AM
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Following up the release of its Native Advertising Playbook, the Interactive Advertising Bureau on Monday issued a primer on content marketing -- providing definitions and guidelines around the hot marketing trend often associated with native advertising.

As with any ad industry term that gains cachet and spreads quickly, overuse has led to confusion about exactly what “content marketing” refers to. To help bring more clarity to the matter, the new IAB primer defines the term as “the marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience.”

It states that the content originates with a consumer- or business-facing brand that traditionally communicates via advertising, public relations, or a retail sales brand. But it differs from advertising and other promotional vehicles in that “the intent of this mode of communication is to provide useful, educational or entertaining information on its own merit."

The document calls content marketing a “pull” strategy aimed at enhancing the consumer’s attitude toward the brand, rather than a “push” strategy with a specific call to action. Within this overall description, the primer lays out a framework for how content marketing works across paid, owned and earned media.

It points out, for example, that publishers are experimenting with a variety of ways to distribute content in paid-unit types, including in-feed ads, recommendation widgets, and promoted listings as well as standard IAB ad formats. On that topic, it also refers users to its new native advertising guidelines for more detail.

The IAB primer further provides an overview of the varieties of content used in marketing efforts -- original, repurposed, and curated -- and their relative strengths and weaknesses. Commissioning original content may be a cleaner, more transparent approach than repurposing material, but also requires more investment.

One of the most controversial issues tied to both content marketing and native advertising has been disclosure. The IAB instructs that content marketing efforts should be clearly disclosed -- whether in paid native units, third-party links or in social media endorsements (either organic or paid).

Regarding native advertising specifically, as a subset of content marketing, the IAB has stated: “Regardless of context, a reasonable consumer should be able to distinguish between what is a paid native advertising unit vs. what is publisher editorial content.”

“By helping to reduce confusion about terminology and establishing guidelines for meeting editorial standards, the IAB’s new Primer will, it is hoped, help this industry reach its full potential,” wrote Andrew Susman, co-chair of the IAB’s Content Marketing Task Force. The group was formed in June at the same time it created a parallel task force to address the growth of native advertising.

The new IAB primer cited research indicating that 28% of B2C marketing budgets, on average, are allocated to content marketing, with 55% of consumer marketers planning to increase their spending in that area in the next year. A separate study this year found that 30% of B2B marketing budgets are dedicated to content marketing, with 58% planning to boost their spending in the next 12 months.

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