Commentary

The Young And The Restless: Branded Videos

The concept of content being written/produced/guided by advertisers and residing within an editorial environment is powerful. It’s called branded content (or native advertising, or sponsored content, depending whom you ask that day).

For the most part, seven out of 10 people would associate an advertisement with some sort of an interruption of their content consumption experience. Think about watching “Seinfeld” on TV for 45 minutes instead of 25 minutes due to commercials, the thickness of the newspaper, or right-rail banners when you read an article.

But making advertising really work is not a small task if we all want to continue to read the paper, or watch our favorite shows. There’s no doubt: Ads help create the products we’re used to consuming regularly. So ads better work.  

Think about it. There’s a reason why companies like Google never charged a dollar a month for search instead of showing sponsored search results, and there’s a reason why Facebook does the same: to help create the products we’re so used to consuming.

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However, what happens when ads stop working?  What happens when users don’t look at them, switch a channel or flip a page? What happens when advertisers pay less for getting less in return?

With branded content, the concept is simple: instead of advertisers showing a pre-roll before someone else’s video starts, they work with publishers to create the actual content, available for users to consume on the publisher’s site. 

If consumers were to find branded content on a publisher’s site useful, then everybody would win. No pre-rolls, and instead of ad fatigue, advertisers are likely to see high engagement.

The good

1. Advertisers pay high CPMs for branded content -- as high as $80-$120.

2. Publishers maintain editorial control and direct relationships with advertisers.

3. Users won’t need to skip or see a pre-roll, as the content is the actual ad.

The not-so-good

1. Not scalable yet. Sites can’t monetize their entire site with branded content.

2. Church & state issues: who writes the content -- in collaboration with editorial? Is it one-sided, etc.

3. Missing best practices - how can a publisher start tomorrow?

Advertising was not always associated with an interruption. My lady still buys Vogue for the ads, telling me “they’re beautiful.”.

Karl Marx said history repeats itself, and in many ways the concept of ads intermingled with the main flow of content, has been done before.

What about soap operas? Watching an episode of “The Young And The Restless” -- the drama, the relationships, that we all loved -- did we know that soap operas were first created by soap manufacturing companies for the ultimate native experience, some 40 to 50 years ago>

These days, companies like BuzzFeed, Mashable, MIT Tech Review and others are experimenting with different formats of branded content, working with different advertisers, ad products, and experiences.

No banners, no pre-rolls, just content -- but branded.
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