Brands are no longer merely peddling products, Ané Honiball reckons. They’re producing, unearthing and distributing information.
Do you remember the big hoo-ha years ago about subtle product placement in movies or on TV? Well, the big shift from traditional to native content is no surprise, really, given the fact that gripping content is hugely effective in adding value to the user experience.
We’re seeing everyday how cleverly designed content marketing strategies morph into powerful relationship building and brand positioning tools. It’s a great way to take businesses – both large and small – to the next level. Brands are no longer merely peddling products; they’re producing, unearthing, and distributing information.
Where does that leave traditional advertising?
There continues to be a great relationship between content marketing and advertising. Advertising is still a powerful tool to drive feet through stores and to create brand awareness and social engagement. But the days of simply pushing through an advertisement are over. The brand and the consumer are increasingly on equal footing, and this necessitates the brand to elevate the quality of the advertisements and level of engagement with consumers.
Content can be the means by which a brand shapes and impacts business and consumer landscapes; or it could be a thoughtful investment in a company’s legacy. However, traditional advertising can deliver equally powerful results.
Native advertising lends itself to any opportunity where the written word can provide greater context, or support campaigns where great storytelling (such as educational or informational campaigns) can lead to bigger business results.Publishers are now required to be up for tough conversations to help clients find the balance that works best for their brand and target audience.
The international revolution
The Harvard Business Review rightfully refers to the global rise of content marketing as an “international revolution”. We are most certainly in the midst of a transformation for brands and companies everywhere – and it centres on content. The Content Marketing Institute estimates that 70% of people would rather learn about a company via an article than an ad.
We’re seeing big shifts, with The New York Times has admitted that native advertisements can perform as well as the paper’s own news content. It’s a brave new world, but the big secret lies in marrying the company’s bottom line with the kind of stories that appeal to readers. News remains a powerful environment for price and product promotions. However, big business cannot simply transplant the traditional newsroom.
Assisting brands to become thought leaders
Content can give brands a greater purpose, but this requires editorial experts to work on content projects.It requires digital and print titles that are committed to storytelling and editorial integrity, albeit shaped by sponsored content. Our editors and journalists remain the custodians of our brands and often Media24’s journo’s get involved to ensure that the content created remains true to the newspaper and digital brands that our audiences have come to love and respect. It’s about being committed to boosting campaigns with quality content that can assist clients in becoming thought leaders, change agents and experts.
Cross platform content marketing
Ultimately, the choice between digital and print is led by the client’s objectives. Our editors often break away from their hectic schedules to join us in co-developing native advertising strategies that not only makes sense to our clients, but to our audiences.
With our digital properties booming, we try to find a healthy balance between print and digital. All the Ads24 titles – both in the digital and print environments – are open to exploring opportunities presented by native advertising. We often find that clients choose both as it offers access to completely different audiences.
Equal uptake amongst media agencies and direct clients
We’ve recently done some great content marketing projects for a host of government clients with more and more brands keenly interested. Our clients expect more – and we’re also guiding them to focus on great story-telling, e.g. the story of beneficiaries and ordinary people whose lives have been changed after government intervention and assistance.
The phenomenon of content marketing and brand publishing has unfolded rapidly because it responds to consumer preference. Both media agencies and direct clients are increasingly exploring all the wonderful new possibilities offered by content marketing. As the sales arms of a key South African publisher, we constantly strive to be on top of our game and we are always excited to offer companies a new opportunity that didn’t necessarily exist a couple of years ago.
Ané Honiball is general manager of Ads24