Advertising & Marketing

How Publishers and Brands Can Get Sponsored Content Right

The potential success of sponsored content is directly linked to how consumers already feel about the brand advertiser and the publisher hosting the content.

That’s the big takeaway from a comprehensive Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Edelman Berland study on how U.S. online news users feel about sponsored content and, importantly, what it takes for brands, publishers and agencies to get it right. The study focused on in-feed ads like sponsored stories that sit next to pure editorial. It did not include other kinds of so-called native ads, like those in content recommendation widgets, social networking sites or search engines.

In December, I spoke at an FTC workshop on sponsored content. I noted that, “Companies, publishers/journalists and the audience have a complex triangulated relationship. The U.S. population is the one party of the three that doesn’t get asked or have a voice in the native advertising conversation.”

Now, thanks to this study, we know more.

When consumers feel that an advertiser’s sponsored content on a news website is considered “relevant,” there is a 50 percent boost in the overall favorability of the publisher’s website. When consumers feel a news website is already “credible,” there is also a potential halo for the advertiser. This can create a 33 percent boost in the credibility of the sponsored content featured on that website.

Moreover, nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of online news visitors said they are more open to digital advertising that focuses on a story rather than selling a product.

Overall, the IAB/Edelman Berland study states that if advertisers and publishers (with the help of agencies) can align on making sponsored content relevant, authoritative and authentic/trustworthy, it has a greater chance to succeed over the long term.

This, however, will require that brands and agencies:

Create value for audiences

Liberally share their expertise and insights vs. selling

Leverage the true value of their brand in working with publishers

Meanwhile, publishers should be prepared to:

Control the experience and be willing to walk away from advertisers who aren’t relevant/trusted

Encourage aligned brand advertisers to work together in a more authoritative manner

Go the distance when it comes to transparency/disclosures


Authored by Steve Rubel,Edelman’s chief content strategist


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