Often, attempts at interpreting branded content straddle the wire of native advertising and advertorials before falling in to the abyss of general advertising – so what is it exactly and what does it offer that traditional channels do not already deliver? One working definition (through Ipsos’ partnership with Oxford Brookes University and The Branded Content Marketing Association) is: “Branded Content is content fully or partly funded by a Brand which promotes the Brand’s values and provides something of value to audiences – often by entertaining, informing and/or educating” Now while this definitely goes a long way to defining what it is, there are two inherent foundations which require amplification:
- It’s experienced: there’s a tendency to be Facebook/YouTube/Twitter myopic, but branded content doesn’t necessarily need to be clicked or viewed – as evidenced by popular Red Bull events. Even The Lego Movie counts as branded content!
- It’s something people choose to spend time with: Branded Content at its best is unlike traditional advertising. Whilst conventional advertising is, in essence, an interrupter designed to snatch attention from something else; content is creativity enjoyed at an individual’s discretion. Crucially, the consumer is in control – not the brand.
Unfortunately, in the same way that reach does not necessarily equal actual branded recognition and number of click-throughs does not always tally with campaign success – understanding how branded content works is tricky. We all have examples of good content, but this tends to be limited to true zeitgeist material (think ‘Always’, ‘Nike’ or the ALS Ice Bucket challenge). In other words, it’s probably gone ‘viral’, been viewed and shared over a million times or the IPA have flagged it as laudable work. But does this tell the whole story? How do people really engage with content in the real world? Do people respond to content as anything other than highfalutin advertising? And though we know what qualifies as successful content, what does content need to do for it to be successful?