New research by Hexagram and Spada shows a large majority (62%) of publishers offer content marketing opportunities, including sponsored blog posts, video, articles and interactive features. That’s 38% that do not include content marketing as an advertising option – and of that group, 16% plan to begin the practice within a year.
Brands and their agencies are also increasingly inclined: according to the study authors, 41% percent of brands have used content marketing campaigns as part of a broader advertising strategy, and, like publishers, 20% of the 61% who have not yet engaged in the practice plan to give it a try in the next year.
So how are brands, agencies and publishers getting at consumer engagement through these campaigns?
It all depends on the degree to which the content is adding real value to the audience. For brand marketers and their agencies, the focus of content marketing should be to deliver value to a target audience – ideally in a way that is supportive of and consistent with a brand, but also able to stand alone from it.
For instance, Harper’s Bazaarrecently introduced its first native ad campaign with Nordstrom and UGG, which resembles a Pinterest pinboard that editors curate or build with advertiser images and text. The advertising is perfectly consistent with the value Harper’s Bazaar typically delivers to its audience, and blends seamlessly with the audience’s browsing experience.
And Tysabri, a pharmaceutical advertiser with my company’s health and wellness website, sponsors first-person patient stories (which never mention Tysabri). These stories provide motivation and support for the company’s target customers living with multiple sclerosis who are searching for related information on Healthline.
Hearst, the parent of Harper’s Bazaar, has done its own research on the performance of these campaigns. According to MediaPost’s Laurie Sullivan, “Hearst's native content module, although not tied to the Nordstrom campaign, produced a click-through rate between 1% and 1.5% compared to the industry average of .1% on traditional display ads… brands can [also] tie the success of the native ad to key performance indicators like sharing or time spent, [according to Hearst.]
Great content marketers seek out and work with people or companies that independently have a track record of delivering value to consumers, and that also have a built-in synergistic audience (e.g., Nordstrom and UGG leveraging Harper’s Bazaar editors and audience). While publishers deliver an audience and great, value-added content, native advertising delivers real audience engagement, click-through rates, and lift.