BOBCM 2015: Anna Watkins

- in BOBCM Report 2015, Insight Series
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The 2015 Global Edition of BOBCM is being supported by the IPAISBAMarketing SocietyPRCAIAB UKAPA and Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA), and to help shape what we feature and why we have been asking industry experts from around the globe the questions below for a new report, and you can see their reponses to date here.

Anna Watkins is Managing Director of Guardian Labs, and you can read her input below:

What is branded content, and how is it is different from branded entertainment, content marketing and other related approaches like native advertising? 

Put simply, branded content is any kind of content produced by, or in collaboration with, a brand to convey a brand’s voice or particular set of messages. Branded content can be delivered in a number of different ways – for instance, the term ‘branded entertainment’ is generally used when a brand sponsors a film or a big entertainment partnership.

Native advertising is usually included in the generic ‘branded content’ box, but the term has taken on negative connotations as many people believe it implies hoodwinking an audience into thinking commercial messaging is in fact independent editorial.

At the Guardian, we understand that the key to building trust is openness and transparency, so we ensure that our audience can easily distinguish between any commercial messages and our editorially independent content.

Our journalism is renowned for breaking conventions and boundaries. This commitment to high quality, independent editorial content filters across to the branded content we create with companies, which is also written by our award winning editorial team.

We know that building genuine conversations and relationships with consumers is crucial – and branded content can no longer be ring-fenced within paid and owned channels. In order to stay ahead, brands have to open up by actively distributing content across digital platforms and inviting people to interact with them.

At Guardian Labs we work closely with brands to create meaningful campaigns that put our readers at the heart of our content, inviting them in to participate and comment – as only then can content truly resonate.

What is the problem that content based marketing approaches solve for business, and is this different from advertising?

Branded content reflects just one of the many disciplines within marketing. Whether it’s social, advertising or digital, they all serve the same purpose: it’s all about identifying a target audience, pulling out relevant insights and developing a successful marketing strategy. But where content marketing differs from traditional advertising is in its activation and ROI.

At the Guardian, we collaborate closely with brands to create the most compelling concepts that engage the right audiences in a way that traditional advertising simply won’t. Central to achieving this is our collaborative approach. By working closely with our clients, we get a deep understanding of their business needs. We use these to tap into all aspects of the Guardian’s business to draw out the best and most relevant audience insights and expertise to address each brand’s requirements.

Another core element when creating branded content – which is sometimes overlooked – is trust. With the proliferation of digital publishing channels, being trusted by your audience is becoming ever-more important. As the most trusted news organisation in the UK, the Guardian can offer brands a much more effective channel that speaks to increasingly savvy consumers, who no longer take an advertising message at face value. And trust means an audience is more likely to listen to a brand’s advice, share recommendations and return to that brand time and time again.

About the author

Justin Kirby is a strategist, writer, and speaker, and is a Lecturer on both the BA (Hons) and MA Advertising courses at London College of Communication. Justin has a 20+ year career in industry as a digital strategist, producer and entrepreneur. He’s been writing about the impact of interactive technologies on business and marketing since the early 90s, and his books include ‘Connected Marketing: the viral, buzz and word of mouth revolution (2005) and the Best of Branded Content Marketing’ (BOBCM) series he conceived and has been curating since 2013. Justin also chairs and speaks at conferences around the globe, judges awards, and consults brands and agencies.