Branded Content

Is the balance of power shifting back to organic distribution over paid media?


When social media first became big news, the general public were largely naïve, and it didn’t take much for a brand’s content to thrive online. As long as there was something disruptive, or share-worthy, the chances of organic viral success were relatively high. Paid media agencies looked on in panic as they struggled to get a foothold in a media environment that was not controlled by advertiser spend. Brands like Nokia, realising paid media placements could do nothing to change perception of their flailing mobile devices, compensated for poor sales figures by focusing on Consumer advocacy, building a network of trusted influencers who spoke positively about their products, campaigns and developments.

However, this organic Nirvana did not last long. The naïve public, led by the dissonance of Gen Z, quickly became the cynics and people ‘de-liked’ brand pages as quickly as they’d liked them in the first place. Unless your content included some earth shattering information of actual interest, online influencers were reticent to share blatant advertising campaigns, having realised most organisations were in fact just using them to spread a brand message.

Also, sudden monetisation and ever changing organic algorithms of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn quickly limited a brand’s ability to reach their consumers online, en masse, without investing significantly in paid amplification. Media agencies saw their opportunity and quickly developed paid social divisions to claim back the social media territory. And once again the advertisers with larger budgets were comfortable knowing they simply needed to spend in social to spread their digital content far and wide.

Yet, as content discovery became the new buzz word, new platforms appeared that helped surface online content to its target audience, in an ethical and transparent way. A digital brand strategy was no longer about building an audience, going ‘viral’ or pushing people to a specific campaign microsite. Because let’s face it – there are not so many people out there who could really care to spend their time going to your brand page and doing whatever it is you hoped they did.

Instead savvy, content marketers saw if they could perfect the science of story-telling, using bit sized content and multiple sources, then they were no longer at the mercy of Facebook – but rather could reach a similar sized audience in parts – by segmenting their content and pushing it out via cool new platforms such as Medium and Contently, supported with a careful combination of native advertising and branded content. Also this meant that the content itself could be more tailored around the nuances and topics that distinguished each platforms. Which in turn increased relevance, as well as reach.

In addition little integration widgets such as Click to Tweet, now allow readers to Tweet pieces of content directly from the place they were reading (as opposed to old fashioned article links).

All this suggests to me it’s now key for content marketeers to have a good understanding of both the paid and the organic media space. There will always be a role for paid media – especially in achieving the reach and frequency required to get a message to a high percentage of your target audience, cost effectively. However the strength of content marketing and therefore its impact relies on the competency of the curator and strategist to understand which content is appropriate for whom and which organic or paid platforms / methods work best to deliver this content and reach their intended audience. Which is a great thing for both brands and online influencers that deserve to get noticed, but simply can’t compete with the deep pockets of Global brands.

For illustrative purposes, if you like the quote in the image above and want to share it, give it a go:

Tweet: Content is King, but Marketing is Queen and runs the household – Gary Vaynerchuk


Controversy: The Future of Advertising is Native




I have already detected the haters in the room. Those who despise Native Advertising because it blurs the line between journalistic merit and blatant product promotion.

‘Be transparent’, they say, while creative agencies get rich basing their work on Creative Directors whims that actually lost touch with the ‘Millennial‘ audience years ago. At the same time, clients feed the media machine more money to push out loud TV, print and digital ads.

Yet, across the World Wide Web, there are people, who create content about their passions. They did it long before advertising made them social media superstars. In comes thick and fast daily – oh the amazing things you can see on the Internet, that agencies only dream of creating.

The content creators of today no longer have to limit their ideas by stale agency terms, conditions or trading agreements. They are also not trying to be advertisers. Rather, they are documenting the experiences they have while exploring their interest, and based on the time they spend doing this thing, you could certainly say they are subject matter experts. Oh and they’re pretty influential in social media, and handy with Instagram or a video camera.

What the haters of Native Advertising don’t realise, is that this is the key to the future of advertising, and also the demise of the creative agency stronghold. Eventually all advertising will either be programmatic or native. People are hungry for content and informed content helps us make decisions. TV ads and other ATL media may help with front of mind, but do nothing to educate us on our purchase decisions. Once programmatic buying is active across all TV, Print, Digital and Radio, beyond reach and frequency, creative, nor media human resource will be necessary, beyond business science.

However, word of mouth has always been the most effective form of advertising.

The trusted advice of peers and subject matter experts is used everyday to help consumers make purchase decisions. And in Internet times, there are endless content creators, sharing information around a given topic.

Now I have just one question to ask the advertising industry; How can you claim that media and creative agencies can come up with a better idea to engage an audience, than those who speak with that audience everyday. Not only do they speak with them, they entertain, vlog, photograph and experience first hand every reaction and success. They are the ones who hold the content marketing key, and surprise – this is native advertising – and it’s set to take off in a big way.

In fact, Native Advertising has taken on different shapes in media for quite a while now– via Facebook and Twitter paid feeds, contextual advertising and if you think about it –Experiential Marketing was the birth of Native Advertising – where you enhanced or affected a person’s experience while feeding them positive subliminal messages from brand.

Ask a Content Marketer what they think of Native Advertising and you will get mixed reactions. – some will deny any association between the two techniques. Yet they are one and the same thing. Branded content – which is a form of content marketing – is really just a new development within the art of Native Advertising, and one that ironically our best practitioners are failing to, or simply refuse to notice.