Commentary

In 2015, Brands Will Think Like Publishers

When the initial wave of native advertising began just a few years ago, the advertisers were predominantly publishers, not advertisers in the traditional sense.  They used tools like Outbrain and Taboola’s content recommendation widgets as a cost-effective way to drive traffic back to their sites, where they could sell their own advertising at a premium.  This approach worked exceedingly well for everyone involved, not least consumers, but the heart of the advertising -- the content itself -- was the realm of publishers because they had the content, and they fueled an early native advertising ecosystem by distributing their content profitably. Consumers ate it up.

Now it’s brand marketers’ turn to go all in on native, as advertisers large and small are rushing to launch true native ad campaigns.  As they do, they know that to effectively succeed, their own content needs to take center stage.  Content creation coupled with content distribution is what publishers do best. As brands embrace native, they must (and some already do) think like publishers. 

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What does that mean, exactly? Here are five publisher practices that brands should adopt to effectively run native campaigns:

1.     Create compelling content.  Content that engages, entertains, and informs is at the heart of what all great publishers do, and there is no reason brands can’t create great content too.  When I began my career many years ago at Procter and Gamble, working with the Pampers brand, we had mountains of amazing content on baby care, but struggled to effectively distribute it to consumers.  Now with technology, digital and social media, and native advertising, that distribution can happen, creating a powerful bond between consumers and brands. 

2.     Aggregate audiences.  Every great publisher knows that their biggest priority is to bring together an audience.  Brands need to consider the types of consumers they’re targeting as an audience for original content, and think even more deeply about the kind of content they can produce that will attract and keep that audience coming back for more.  Once brands create that content, they have to amplify distribution.  As we often say, if content is king, distribution is King Kong.

3.     Keep them coming back.  Once you’ve attracted an audience, your next biggest priority is to bring them back for more.  That’s why “serialized” content is so popular among content creators.  Of course television paved the way for this, but serialized content is now taking over major film production (think movie franchises like “The Hunger Games”) and online video.  We will see rapid adoption of serialized content in native advertising, as retailers, lifestyle brands, auto makers, and others develop compelling ongoing content of their own.

4.     Monetize audiences.  If you’re a brand, making money from your content means having the most efficient and direct link between brand and consumer, through every step of the conversion funnel.  In simple terms, the more cost effectively a brand can engage a consumer with its content, the better it is at monetizing the content – and that’s what native advertising does.

5.     Make ROI work.  As brands increasingly view the world through a content-creator lens, they must utilize ROI metrics applied to a publisher model.  While brands have considered ROI for some time, it typically has only been relevant in a traditional advertising sense, with metrics such as CTR or CPM applied to a conversion goal. But when publishers think of ROI, they think about total engagement applied to a more complex set of investment versus return.  Through the emergence of sophisticated ad technology in the native ecosystem, optimization technologies, user data, re-targeting, etc., will be tools brands will use, often for the very first time.

As brands continue to convert major portions of their digital advertising into native, they will increasingly think and behave like true content creators.  They will embrace the most cutting-edge technologies and combine them with compelling and engaging content, and they will find ways to distribute and amplify their content to wider and more loyal audiences than ever before.  Most important, they are forging a stronger link than ever between their brand and their consumer, which is the best payoff for everyone.

1 comment about "In 2015, Brands Will Think Like Publishers".
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  1. Walter Sabo from SABO media, January 8, 2015 at 6:36 a.m.

    HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first company to -successfully- turn brands into publishers. They put brand messages and products within online video star shows. Authentic, credible, engaging content. They have won OMMA awards for it. 7 years of success.

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