Branded content or native advertising is nothing new: advertorials and infomercials have been around since the beginning of media.
The growth of digital and online media is further expanding branded content: sponsored posts, promoted tweets, fake news sites and search engine marketing are just a few examples. And now big news organizations are cautiously jumping into branded content, still trying to figure out the best way to co-mingle editorial with marketing.
PR Week, in its February issue, covered the topic, comparing Forbes’ position on branded content to BuzzFeed’s. Not surprisingly, Forbes has taken a more conservative approach to separating advertising and editorial, while BuzzFeed maintains that as long as content is properly labeled as advertising, then it’s fine.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, $1.5 billion was spent on branded content. This pales in comparison to the $8.6 billion spent on banner advertising, but branded content grew 45 percent in 2011 and 39 percent in 2012.
The separation of editorial and marketing has gained the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which recently sponsored a workshop Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?
“By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying – deceptively – that the information comes from a non-biased source,” said FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez.
Advertisers, marketers and publishers argue that native advertising helps put relevant content in the hands of the consumers, thus adding value. Critics argue that it’s deceptive. No one can argue that branded content isn’t an important revenue generator, and major publishers like Forbes are using it extensively. In fact, Forbes estimates that branded content will make up 30 percent of its revenue this year.
Branded content isn’t going away. The next wave is branded video content and BuzzFeed is putting huge resources around it with a new social video studio and an agreement with YouTube. A recent example: a clever, Purina-branded video “A Cat’s Guide To Taking Care Of Your Human” has generated more than 4.1 million views on YouTube.
For more on this topic, read PR and Media Buying: Two Disciplines That Need to Join Hands for Increased Success.