Branded Content Is King


Everyone is getting into the branded content business. Goldman Sachs has set up its own in-house studio, where it creates everything from podcasts to videos to interactive graphics. This full-service content lab is not meant for sales or lead generation, but rather is designed as a way for the financial institution to pull back the curtain for clients and the general public -- in other words, to serve as an advertising agency.

"Our favorability increases [after people view its content rather than see a straight ad]," said Kaydee Bridges, VP, digital, social, social media, Goldman Sachs during a panel during Advertising Week 2016 in New York City. Goldman Sachs has hired key journalists to help expand its reach.

Bridges was joined by Mark Egan, chief client officer, Maxus; Trixie Ferguson Gray, senior partner, branded and content experience, MediaCom; and Ravi Mattu, editorial director, FT2, Financial Times, in a panel moderated by The Drum's Natalie Mortimer on how companies and agencies are viewing branded content as a great way to cut through the noise.

By 2021, native display ad revenue in the U.S. -- which includes native in-feed ads on publisher properties and social platforms -- will make up 74% of total U.S. display ad revenue, up from a 56% share in 2016, according to Business Insider Intelligence reports based off data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC, as well as IHS.

MediaCom is positioning itself as a content and connections agency to help brands navigate this new world. "Everything is connected," says Ferguson Gray. Consumers see TV ads, social channels and even how a company answers the customer service line as the same thing even though they reside in different departments and are siloed. It is important brands are "harmonized to tell one story," she says. More recently, MediaCom is working with online influencers to tap into their audiences and content creation abilities.

The GroupM-affiliated agency notes that content tends to fall into three categories. First, content provides answers to questions the audience may have; second, content serves as a utility to participate in a conversation; third, content can serve as a provocateur generating awareness or buzz about a certain topic. "We don't often spend enough time talking to journalists who have an innate feel for what audiences want," says Egan.

The Financial Times views content in two ways: serving short relevant content on a news front or longer, deeper pieces. With 800K subscribers, the Financial Times reaches affluent consumers. "We feel we must earn the trust of our audience," says Mattu. This means aligning with like-minded partners. Dove soap, for instance, wouldn't be a key partner for FT readers, says Mattu.

Metrics remain a challenge. Goldman Sachs, with its propensity for research, measures videos - most average three minutes - on whether they were viewed longer than 25%. Unlike Facebook and its video count, Goldman doesn't measure mere views. Podcasts are trickier to measure since Apple "does not give much info," says Bridges. Goldman also tracks shares and popularity across social media.

Branded content can have a long shelf life. Goldman Sachs received more than one million views of a series that Reddit picked up one year after its publications as date.
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