Branded Content – The Love Child of PR, Advertising and Direct Marketing

Woman with newspaperImagine you are an editor of a newspaper.  You’ve got limited resources.  Not enough staff, out-of-date computers, maybe even labor problems, too.  You check your e-mail one deadline morning and see a ready-made article about Product SuperAwesome prewritten from your favorite PR pro (wink wink)!  With your publisher breathing down your neck, 30 minutes until the final edition goes to print and a gaping space in your publication, you slap the article about Product SuperAwesome’s industry into your paper and everyone is happy.

Branded content isn’t new, but it is evolving.  A “matte release” like the one about Product SuperAwesome, has been an item in the PR toolbox for a long, long time.

The evolution is staggering, as “advertainment” has become a popular industry buzzword, as it truly melds the two worlds of advertising and entertainment.

Chances are, you’ve watched “American Idol” over the years, right?  Do you remember those Ford music videos where the contestants would sing a bad version of your favorite song while doing something vaguely related to driving the automaker’s latest offering?  Then you’ve seen “advertainment.”  (And you’ve probably lost a few favorite songs along the way.)

In the print/online world, the Search Engine Optimization capabilities of branded content are immense.

I recently came across a company called ARAnet, which specializes in branded content in the Web 2.0 space.  They “place” their clients in hundreds of trusted online media sites every day (targeted to their client’s audience, naturally).  We all know that links aren’t equal.  A link from your local daily newspaper carries more authority than a link from “JoeBob’s World Report from the Basement” (Not a real site.  I hope.).

The best part of this is the SEO maximization component.  If you are included on more high-traffic websites, your site becomes more visible to search engine spiders, thus, gets more prominent position in, for example, a Google results page.  And, to keep the chain rolling, a result that is high up on the page has more credibility with users – more so than the paid advertising slots above it.  Hence, Ms. PR, meet Mr. Advertising.  And you two, go grab a drink with Madam Direct Marketing.

ARAnet’s metrics reports, broad-base outreach capabilities and innovative Adfusion program which provides targeted content widgets to high-traffic sites (like Yahoo!), make them a true industry leader in this field.  With major outlets in numerous Top 20 media markets, they are a company on the rise.  I highly recommend you click on their website to learn more about them.  And before you ask, this post is NOT paid for!

As corporate websites, YouTube channels and the SEO phenomenon continue to grow, the general public has more exposure to branded content than ever.  “Watch our commercials online!”  “Click here for Part 2!” “LOOK AT US!!!”

Clearly, with the audience becoming more advertising-savvy, advertisers and marketers are at the precipice of a tactical revolution.

Your Turn: What types of branded content are most effective at reaching YOU?

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  • Great post, Mike! Branded syndicated content is becoming more popular as companies expand their multi-channel communication strategies. Thanks for listing a great resource.

  • Hi Mike,
    If you like controlling your story, there's an even more advanced way to target. Newsforce is similar to AdFusion, in that you pay for premium placement on news sites alongside the editorial news of the day. But how we're different is in the targeting options: we can literally help you display your story only if the viewer is a certain demographic or behavioral profile. Want Democrats? Got 'em. Want mommies? Got 'em. Want Alternative Medicine Seekers? You name it, we've got a way to hit them nationally or regionally in trusted news vehicles.

    It's the next generation of advertorial. It doesn't come cheaply, no, but it's priced about the same or even lower than a premium banner campaign in most markets.

    What we ask customers to do is focus on telling great stories. If you tell it well, people will be interested and will read more and interact more. We've seen mixed success with some PR companies – some write great stories that audiences engage with, but others don't get much attention because it reads too much like a boring press release. Our advice? Spend the time crafting a series of stories that you can test over time, to fine-tune your storyline.

    Thanks for talking to your readers about storytelling media. Advertorial has been around for a couple of generations, but now that we've got digital targeting and test/measure capabilities it gets pretty exciting.

    Dana Todd, CMO
    Newsforce Network

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  • mikeschaffer

    Thanks, Colleen! Do you find branded content propaganda or informative? I lean towards informative. Direct advertising at it's finest!

  • mikeschaffer

    Appreciate the feedback, Dana! Thank you for stopping by 🙂

    I'll definitely check out Newsforce!

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  • You're right–when I view a link or ad on a site that I'm familiar with (local newspaper, etc.) I tend to regard it as more credible. It's just like in-person advertising and the true benefits of excellent customer service: Nothing is as powerful as a personal recommendation from a satisfied customer; people trust their friends more than they trust advertising. My friends just happen to be StarTribune.com and TIME :D.

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