Branded content is providing ways for companies to align with media organisations and share their messaging with a built-in audience. And during INMA’s South Asia News Media Summit last week, Aditi Shrivastava explained how news media companies can use it as a tool for generating revenue and extending their advertiser reach. Shrivastava, the co-founder and CEO of the digital entertainment company Pocket Aces, talked about how to create value with branded content.
Although she works with non-news organisations, Shrivastava said the fundamentals are the same and she sees great opportunities for publishers. Over the past six years, PocketAces has worked with advertisers across a broad range of categories, from financial services and appliances and electronics to beauty and fashion. The idea of branded content, Shrivastava said, is to “take their messaging across to audiences in a very audience friendly manner.”
Because consumers are already on the platform, branded content is a different sort of marketing and requires a different approach.
“This is the only sort of marketing which is completely integrated with the viewers’ experience of whatever they were already doing,” she said. “So if they were already watching a video, if they were already reading an article, if they were already listening to their favorite channel on the radio — how can you basically integrate a brand seamlessly into your programming? That is the crux of branded content marketing.”
The approach to advertisers is different as well because it is less about selling and more about understanding what they want to accomplish. She said the sales force takes on more of a marketing advisor role, learning the client’s goals, challenges, and what sets them apart from their competitors.
“We don’t offer any solutions in that meeting,” she said. Instead, the sales team meets with the content team and develops ideas based on the client’s objectives.
Setting standards for branded content
One rule Shrivastava said they follow is that any idea they are selling to a brand has to be something they would be comfortable doing editorially even if they weren’t getting revenue for it: “You see many times the editorial content is high quality. And then the branded content is lower quality and gets hate from audiences,” she said. Creating high standards that apply to branded content ensures greater satisfaction for the client as well as enhancing the chances of the campaign’s success.
Campaigns are developed with plenty of feedback from the client, which is important: “A big thing with content is that advertisers are very worried that, ‘OK, you’ll tell me one thing, but you’ll execute something completely different.’ So, no surprises during execution is a big thing.”
Also big are timelines and setting ROI expectations. Shrivastava said they don’t follow a PPM ad model, but measure views, shares, comments, engagement, and retention watch times. They also conduct brand lift studies for brands when conversion is difficult to measure.
“The idea is you set the success metrics beforehand so that everybody's on the same page,” she said. “I think the biggest service that we can all do to branded content is making sure everybody understands the ROI right — and then can measure it as well.”
Thinking outside the box
Shrivastava shared examples of PocketAces’ work, which has included creating a popular Web series that showed a character learning about investing in mutual funds and a series called Bravehearts that looks at the heroes of India’s Army. That series, created for the online learning platform Unacademy, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and received a tremendous amount of attention, Shrivastava said.
She said one of the remarkable things about branded content is that there are so many creative ways to approach it.
“You can actually integrate screens, integrate features, talk about whatever their USPs are within the content — which you can never do in like a 30-second advertorial. Or if you do it in a brand film, people just get bored and skip your ad,” Shrivastava said.
Publishers have an advantage because they’re already reaching the audience the brands desire, and they have creative teams and tools in place to execute branded content strategies.
“I think publishers are doing a great job selling on reach right now, selling on engagement. And that is the only way that branded content can be sold because the claim is not maximum eyeballs,” she said. “It is no longer about views; it’s about the impact made on their minds.”