Native ad campaigns of late have gotten more thoughtful, nuanced and compelling. Among those campaigns is MasterCard’s partnership with Skift, the travel business publisher.
The "Future Cities" campaign, which kicked off on July 15 and continues to run on Skift, is designed to create a conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing some of the most-visited destinations in the world, in this case: Singapore, Dubai, Amsterdam, Taipei and Rio.
The effort focuses on the role of technology and urban planning in improving the quality of life for residents and visitors of those cities.
Notably, the campaign is an outgrowth of MasterCard’s lead sponsorship of Skift Giobal Forum, an annual event that examines the intersection of travel and technology.
With its “Future Cities” sponsored content program, MasterCard sought to extend the conversation around its MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, an annual report that analyzes 132 cities in relation to international visitors and their spending patterns.
The campaign, which continues to run on Skift, includes five 60-second videos and articles that address each of the five cities mentioned above.
It made sense for MasterCard to partner with Skift, as “both share an interest in the intersection of travel and technology, and we started working together last year when we became the lead sponsor of the inaugural Skift Forum,” said Bernhard Mors, VP of corporate and digital communications, MasterCard.
B2B native sponsorships are evolving.
B2B marketers, in order to remain relevant in this space, need to think beyond product and service-focused content, according to Matt Heidkamp, branded content strategist at Skift. Heidkamp, who worked with MasterCard, among many other B2B marketers, maintained that brands should be looking at building tentpoles or platforms that explore an idea or trend, and “something that we, as Skift, would likely publish ourselves.”
While the metrics for “Future Cities” are still coming in, Mors said he’s pleased overall with results so far. MasterCard is looking to drive KPIs including online and offline engagement with key audiences.
“It starts with creating interest for a topic, then awareness for the unique insight and perspective MasterCard brings to the table, and ultimately results in dialogue and advocacy,” Mors explained.
Heidkamp said that as of early November, there were more than 15k views of the videos on YouTube and 14k views on Facebook, though only three of the five have posted to Facebook. The remaining two videos post this week. The average time spent on each city profile was 4.5 minutes.
As of Nov. 1, there were more than 10,000 shares, tweets and retweets of the posted material on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Heidkamp noted that that the quality of those responding on social media was very high, including many government officials and smart city experts -- influencers, in other words.
Look for more sponsored content from MasterCard. “We see ourselves as brand publishers and storytellers, and as a B2B2C company, we use different channels and tactics -- owned, shared, earned and paid -- to initiate and participate in conversations that are relevant to our business partners and to consumers,” Mors explained.
Skift is also looking to launch a podcast about the future of cities.
Prior to Skift, Mors said MasterCard’s worked with various publishers on issues around the future of digital commerce, including Mashable, Fast Company and Business Insider. “We’ve learned a lot from these partnerships and find them to be complementing our owned, shared and earned activations,” he said. Most recently, the company worked with Mashable on a Snapchat program about its global hackathon series, entitled "Masters of Code."
MasterCard’s learned some best practices from its experiences with native advertising. Perhaps most importantly: “People love good stories.
We’ve found that branded content is being received and shared similarly to classic editorial content -- if it’s relevant, well done and not forced.”
Mors’ advice for other marketers?
For its part, Skift, takes a holistic view of travel, Heidkamp said: “We’re not just working with airlines and hotel chains." And travel companies aren’t Skift’s only branded content clients.
As for MasterCard, it’s likely to continue down the sponsored content path as it increasingly looks to position itself as a technology company that provides solutions to big-picture challenges vs. a “traditional” financial services company.
The 3-year-old Skift recently hired Carolyn Kremins, a travel editorial vet, as its first president -- a move bound to bring even more innovation, not only in native advertising/branded content, but events, editorial content and other types of partnerships.