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An increasing number of publishers are starting in-house branding studios to keep up with the content production necessary for successful native advertising.

Major news brands such as The New York Times and Guardian have departments focused on branded content.
Major news brands such as The New York Times and Guardian have departments focused on branded content.

Sebastian Tomich, senior vice president of advertising and innovation at The New York Times, began the panel on native advertising and content strategies on the last day of INMA’s World Congress in London.

He spoke about how the business has recently changed for NYT: “We are in the business of making virtual reality films now.” 

In the past, a large sales team would wait for advertisers to call in, and, if the company was a fashion advertiser, it would put an ad in the men’s style section. Today, the media company are in a different climate, Tomich said.

Sebastian Tomich discussed T Brand Studio, The New York Times' brand marketing unit.
Sebastian Tomich discussed T Brand Studio, The New York Times' brand marketing unit.

The company recently launched a new team called T Brand Studio, which is the brand marketing unit of The New York Times. The team has worked on more than 10 campaigns with 100 different brands.

“This year has been the fastest-growing year in media that I’ve ever seen,” Tomich said. “When we first brought up the idea of branded content in the Times newsroom ... they hated it.”

Some of the company’s best Virtual Reality work came out of a project it worked on with its brand partner General Electric Company. NYT produced a film about biomimicry, which is how different species of animals interact with one another. It used this VR experience as a visual metaphor for GE’s transformations into a digital industrial company as it develops machines to help society progress.

T Brand Studio also worked with its brand partner Philips and produced a story, infographics, and videos on how technology is enabling seniors to live longer lives at home while improving their lives.

The team goes out and finds what the most compelling story is around that product, Tomich said. It plans on producing nine features for Philips throughout the year.

Tomich left the audience with three key lessons:

  1. Digital transition: You’re either all in or you’re not.

  2. Transformation requires belief in the possibility of your oblivion.

  3. Hold fast to your competitive advantage, but don’t assume it’s going to make you monetise in the same ways.

Anna Watkins, managing director at Guardian Labs, continued the discussion by saying the Guardian is “fueled by video, digital, technology and data.”

Anna Watkins explained that focus is on mobile-friendly content at the Guardian.
Anna Watkins explained that focus is on mobile-friendly content at the Guardian.

“We describe what we do as a branded content agency,” she said.

Because more than 60% of its content is accessed through mobile devices, the company is focused on a mobile-first approach. The Guardian is moving from long-form articles to video, since video is the highest form of content consumed.

“We can’t afford to stand still,” said Watkins, emphasising the need for “creating unstoppable stories for brands.”

The Guardian has recently been working on animated films as a way to turn complex issues into simpler terms and forms of entertainment. She showed the audience a film the company produced called “The Last Job on Earth,” which was developed around the fact that, within the next 30 years, machines could take over 50% of jobs.

“We’re really, really proud of this bit of work we’ve done,” Watkins said.

Watkins wrapped up the panel by discussing the importance of data when it comes to understanding what its audience wants, optimising in real time and editorial purposes. It uses data to learn about what people understand about the brand.

“Quality and innovation is increasingly important for us,” she said.