CNN Study Sees Branded Content Growing Quickly

Tip: Make it clear if content is advertising

Branded content is growing fast, and CNN Ad Sales, which helps its clients create branded content, has created a new report that takes a closer look at the phenomenon.

Branded content has been longer than TV, with Procter & Gamble pioneering the soap opera on radio in the 1930. Now it has expanded into digital and social media and Turner cites forecasts that call for branded content becoming a $20 billion by 2021, with clients reporting in surveys that they see 50% larger budgets for content marketing in the future.

“I think the role of marketers and how marketers can communicate with their consumers has evolved over the course of time,” said David Iudica, VP of CNN Ad Sales Research. With today’s cross-media tools, branded content ‘really gives markets a unique way of connecting with their consumers in a much more emotional way.”

CNN’s parent company Turner has a number of units that create branded content for consumers, including CNN’s Courageous. Turner worked with YouGov on a survey of consumers and with Nielsen Consumer Neurosciences unit to measure consumer attitudes and responses to branded content.

In the report, CNN also lists some best practices for marketers looking to do content marketing.

CNN’s surveys found that 78% of consumers say they have viewed branded content on any device. The number was highest for younger consumers, with 83% of those 18- to 34 responding yes.

Millennials are also fondest of branded content experiences, compared to their gen X and boomer counterparts.

More than a third of consumers said that the branded content they see on news, entertainment and health and lifestyle channels and websites are relevant to them. Sports scored with 23% of consumers while branded content on fashion and shopping sites and channels was relevant to 18% of consumers.

Across all devices, consumer preferred branded content to traditional ads. On TV the score was 30% for branded content to 21% for standard advertising. On mobile it was 35% to 17%. Branded content also scored higher emotional engagement than most traditional advertising.

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CNN found the larger the screen—with TV being the largest—the more branded content engendered the trust of consumers.

“If you’re going to engage on branded content, it has to be done correctly, because the same expectations that consumer have from us as content providers, they’ve extended to our marketing and advertising partners as well,” Iudica said.

In laying out best practices, the CNN reports that:

  • Consumers say cross-platform branded content needs to be high quality, inspirational and helpful
  • Context matters, with human interest scoring high in most content categories.
  • Brand identification is important. The content should be clear that it is advertising and about who the sponsor is. “People want a clear delineation between the content and the advertisement itself,” Iudica said.
  • Eye-tracking research found that consumer focus their attention on faces when they consume content. Advertisers can drive engagement with characters in the creative, especially heroes.
  • The pace of the content shouldn’t be too rapid. A fast pace makes viewers work harder to keep up, and puts them in a less emotional mindset.
  • Advertisers should be very cautious when using satire. When one piece of content featuring satirical content was tests, only 20% of consumer understood the parody, while 70% thought the video was serious.

Iudica said that branded content is “becoming more and more an integral part of the media mix for advertisers and marketers, especially if they’re looking to communicate with folks in a very distracted world.”

Programmers including Turner are looking for ways to cut back on the numbers of commercials they run, and branded content can reduce the need for traditional spots, but “I don’t know that there will ever be a full-on replacement with branded content,” he said. “I can’t imagine a world where we would do away entirely with 15s and 30s for branded content.”

(Photo via Julie, Dave & Family's Flickr. Photo was taken April 4, 2013. Using Creative Commons License 2.0. Photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio)