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branded content advertising

Branded Content Advertising Engages Ad Skippers

September 20th, 2016   ||    by Todd Wasserman

Branded content advertising is designed to reach people who would otherwise skip ads. It’s not a new technique, but it’s becoming increasingly more important as ad-skipping and ad-blocking technologies proliferate.

In the digital realm, branded content advertising is an attempt to make up for a quirk in the medium’s development. As Peter Minnium, head of branded initiatives for the IAB, told Adweek last year, “In the digital world, for some strange reason we decided early on to not put advertising in the user’s natural activity stream, rather put it around the margins of the page. Essentially, we as an industry need to correct for that.”

The idea is that creating compelling content will draw in users rather than interrupt their entertainment experiences, a practice known as pull marketing, noted Marketing-Schools. Not everyone is able to pull it off, though.

The Value of Content Impact

Branded content has its enemies. Critics may argue that editorial content isn’t as impactful or genuine when presented through a third party. Watchdog groups, similarly, have long criticized product placement as a deceptive practice, according to Academia. Marketers have also struggled to see the return on investment for branded content, reported AdvertisingAge. One approach is to measure “cost per impact,” which can range from $0.50 to $50.

Despite these reservations, many marketers are plunging ahead with robust branded content programs, including Marriott, which created an in-house studio staffed by more than sixty-five people and run by former Disney-ABC executive David Beebe, reported Digiday.

Branded Content in Action

The CW sitcom Jane the Virgin has woven retailer Target into the action of the show, Racked noted. That integration was the result of an ad package Target launched in early 2016 called “#SinTracuccion” or “Without Translation,” that was aimed at Hispanic consumers. The concept behind the campaign is that there are untranslatable moments in such consumers’ lives.

In another acknowledgment of the rise of branded content, NBC announced that it was cutting 30 percent of advertising during Saturday Night Live in part to offer more sponsored branded content, according to a report in AdvertisingAge. As Pinnacle noted in a blog post, “Advertising will continue to evolve and adapt to bring new opportunities to its advertisers.”

Predicting Content of the Future

Longtime industry watchers will recall there was a similar wave of branded content in the 2000s, as advertisers attempted to thwart the ad-skipping capabilities of TiVo. While TiVo didn’t quite live up to the industry’s fears, the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 ushered in another wave of empowerment for consumers.

As consumers spend more and more time on their devices and the ubiquity of broadband allows for over-the-top (OTT) services like the ad-free Netflix, consumers—particularly younger ones—increasingly see traditional advertising as a preventable intrusion.

In such a landscape, branded entertainment has emerged as one of the tools in a marketers’ arsenal, which now includes precision targeting and mobile advertising, among other techniques. The return on investment (ROI) on branded entertainment can be hard to quantify, but the biggest proponents—like Marriott—argue, however, that rather than trying to cash in quickly, they are building for the future.

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