- Media companies such as CBS, Disney, CNN, Time, and Refinery29 are set to show off their growing capabilities in making custom content for paying advertisers.
- They’re presenting at a showcase event hosted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
- Marketers are spending more on content, but the sector has become crowded and ever more complicated.
If it seems as if every major media company has built a stand-alone division tasked with making content for advertisers — following Vice and BuzzFeed’s lead — that’s because it is true.
There are at least 40 of these divisions, says Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) president and CEO Randall Rothenberg — with names like The Foundry (Time Inc.), 23 Stories (Condé Nast), and Studio 61 (CBS). (Business Insider has one called BI Studios.)
That’s led to lots of enthusiasm and lots of confusion in the industry.
So to help the advertisers get their heads around this, the IAB is starting a new event next week. The Content Studio Showcase should serve as sort of a speed-dating round for ad buyers and media companies that will feature wall-to-wall presentations from the likes of NBCUniversal, The New York Times, Refinery 29, Pandora, and Turner.
To be sure, advertisers continue to pump money into this sector for several reasons. Consumers are harder to reach in traditional media, banner ads are not a great way to tell stories, and marketers all have social-media accounts that need to be fed constantly.
“We’ve got to hit people with lots and lots of content to get them,” said Chris Tuff, executive vice president and director of content marketing and partnerships at the ad agency 22squared. “What gets through to you, it’s not a banner ad and it’s not a preroll. It’s content. You gotta blend in to stand out. And in a social-media feed on a phone, you gotta compete with anything above and below.”
But making content isn’t easy and the IAB’s plan is to help buyers sift through the dozens of divisions’ offerings, strengths, and capabilities — from video content to social distribution.
Ahead of next week’s event, Business Insider talked to some of the key players on the state of affairs in digital content marketing.
Why are marketers so interested in making content?
“Advertising is at an interesting point right now,” said Michael Hess, editorial director at Storyful, a division of News Corp. “A lot of people are taking a pause and saying, what’s going on” regarding the safety of brands online. “I do think everyone is struggling with ad blocking and ad blindness.”
In part, that’s driven by social media, said Josh Stinchcomb, chief experience officer at Condé Nast.
“This is the format for Facebook and Instagram. Think of how big these platforms have gotten. The only option for marketers is to market through content … Consumers are spending more and more time on screens where it’s harder to reach them with disruptive ads. You see all this ad blocking and ad avoidance. These formats are very engaging.”
OK, so why this event is needed?
“We’ve been talking to publishers lately, asking how we can help with this endeavour,” said IAB CEO Rothenberg. “There are easily 40 prominent ones. And the thing we’ve heard that is very, very consistent from publishers is, ‘We just need more of a megaphone.’ Everybody knows they need [to do more content marketing] but there’s a limited aperture of who’s doing what.”
“Everyone’s got a branded content studio,” said Stinchcomb. “And as the world has evolved, marketers are saying, ‘Wait a minute — I want to understand what’s out there.'”
What does this content look like exactly?
“We do keep hearing that more marketers are making fewer, bigger bets in digital” — that is, outside the Facebook-Google duopoly — said Dan Reynolds, vice president of digital media at Walt Disney.
“The demand for this has grown significantly year over year. Brands want to leverage our storytelling. We’ve done 6,000 pieces of content for advertisers.”
Examples of that Disney-fied brand storytelling include a recent “Science and Star Wars” series of videos produced for IBM and distributed on Facebook (one has over 1.2 million views) as well as a revival of the “Mickey Mouse Club” orchestrated for HP that also includes Facebook videos (like this one with over 8.5 million views).
Another example: Condé Nast’s 23 Stories division recently produced a series of video and print profiles of innovative artists, ranging from textile designer John Robshaw, and Barry Jenkins, director of the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” — all for the brand Lincoln Continental.
“You’ve got to be a lot more interesting,” said Stinchcomb, who added that 23 Stories has grown from a team of 30 to over 120 in just two years. “That’s the same bar we have with our editorial.”
What are the challenges in this sector?
Caution is warranted, said Reynolds, as neither marketers nor publishers should overdo it. “This [showcase] could evolve into a marketplace,” he said. “But we are very careful with our IP. We’re not going to take on every campaign.”
It’s not always clear who controls these projects — or where the budgets are coming from. Who buys this stuff, whether it’s marketers, agencies, specialty production firms, public-relations teams, “that’s the million-dollar question,” said Stinchcomb. “A lot of people have their hands in this.”
Rothenberg said he’d heard from publishers that agencies can muck up the process. “They’re saying, ‘We need to work more directly with marketers and retailers,'” he said. “Agencies get in the way of establishing the one to one relations.”
Regardless, more exposure should help everybody involved. “Look at where budgets are now,” said Tuff. “We have so far to go. So any event like this is welcome.”
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