Branded Content Sites: Don't Screw This Up

Your time to shine has arrived, again.  So before you check out for the holiday weekend, check out why you and your organization need to come back from this long weekend with more pace and purpose, or this window will close on you as it has before. 

More display dollars are in play and up for grabs. The dollars spent for online display are growing.  Companies benefiting the most up until this point have been the ad networks and the portals.  The former, because they sell based on price benefits tied to performance -- and during a recessionary-minded period, this approach fares better than premium-positioned inventory from recognizable brands.  The latter, because portals often act like ad networks, and their arms reach into most everything else sold online, so portal boats rise with every tide. (58.4% of all 2009 U.S. online dollars were spent with four companies: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL). 

Open window, bring bag, carry money out. Maybe clients like Mercedes, AT&T and Coca-Cola actually saw their brands running on risqué dating sites like Lavalife and realized ad network buys are as risky as unprotected sex.   Whatever the reasons, it appears, sounds, and reads as if direct buys on branded content sites are back in favor.  This is cyclical, however, and will only unlock some of the display dollars.   It will be the issue of privacy that will unleash a flood of available dollars for branded content Web sites to soak up. 



Targeting will become a four-letter word. A privacy-issue-driven tidal wave is brewing, and it picked up steam last week thanks to the Wall Street Journal article.  We can save our disagreements for its severity, but let's agree something is coming from all of this.  I think this wave will crash down hard and Facebook will take the brunt of its force -- but so will other digital companies with a sales narrative that overemphasize ad targeting over brand quality.  The undercurrent from this wave of negative publicity will then draw in brands that are advertising, directly or indirectly, through the use of private data collected and shared without consumer knowledge. That kind of publicity can drown a brand quickly.

Clients still wear ties with matching life preservers to work. The consequences of a worst-case scenario outweigh the intended benefits at watershed moments like these.  The people paid to manage brands are going to swim fast and far from this privacy issue.  These people -- we call them clients -- are entrusted by their bosses to manage brands and, until the seas settle, many will shift their dollars from target-centric buys across the Web to the safer and guarded grounds of branded content sites they trust.

Targeting practices like behavioral and others overtly dependent on collected user data to show value will slide down or off RFPs.  These line items will be replaced by targeting via contextual relevance, which targets ads to content consumers read, not the consumers themselves.  This less-sophisticated approach to targeting is a safer option for brands looking for distance from this brewing and potentially damaging issue.

The biggest difference between digital companies and traditional companies with digital extension is the pace of business they keep.  The former has always moved faster -- and now the latter need to mimic that pace to take advantage of this opportunity before this window closes.

I am out of words for this column but not done dispensing advice on this topic.  If you are interested in learning how I believe branded content sites can walk away with more dollars -- click here for my bonus column, as I am happy to share some tangible steps to take. 

Enjoy the holiday weekend, and if you are going to be on the road, don't text and drive.  It's just so stupid and incredibly self-centered. And the worst-case scenario from this ill-advised practice can't match the benefits -- you know what I mean?

2 comments about "Branded Content Sites: Don't Screw This Up".
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  1. Rich Benci from Benci Consulting, LLC, May 27, 2010 at 10:02 p.m.

    Passionate audience + context + quality content = great branding opportunity!

    Branded content sites can provide value for marketers beyond just distancing themselves from the privacy issues of behavioral targeting. Branded content sites also provide greater credibility and "communication flow" over the consumer-generated content aggregators.

    Thank you for the "bonus column" -- great actionable advice ad sellers should take to heart.

  2. Vic Piano from Mizlou Television Network, Inc., July 1, 2010 at 4:36 p.m.

    "Passionate audience + context + quality content = great branding opportunity!” That statement succinctly describes our place based digital out of home network, MTRN, the Mizlou Thoroughbred Racing Network. We position our network as a significant branding opportunity however; we have experienced an overall reticence emanating from agencies that promote themselves as being at the forefront of place based digital out of home media. How can they purport to be at the top of the game if they don’t know who all the players are?

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