Branded Content Marketing Sees Increase in Importance

Seventy percent of brands and 77 percent of agencies used branded content marketing for advertising in 2012, according to a study of more than 600 online marketing and ad executives by Mail Online, the global newspaper Web site. About two-thirds of both groups claim branded content marketing has become an increasingly important aspect of their marketing approach.

Announced in a live Webinar Wednesday, the findings reveal that brands now believe branded content to be one of their most effective branding tactics—72 percent of brands have increased their spending on it last year, and 69 percent say they plan to increase spending even more this coming year. The results are similar for agencies, with 71 percent reporting an increase in spending this year, and 73 percent expecting to spend more in the coming year.

While there are many different approaches to branded content marketing, Mail Online CMO Sean O'Neal believes that the evolution and newfound interest in the marketing approach can be attributed to the rise of social media.

"Social media has had a profound impact on branded content marketing. When great content marketing goes viral, it is not uncommon for the 'earned media' exposure to equal that of the paid media. And that second wave of distribution can often reach an audience that is just as targeted," he says.

To measure the effectiveness of their content marketing programs, 30 percent of brands say they evaluate brand lift, and 32 percent of agencies measure sales lift. According to O'Neal, brands and agencies now believe that branded content marketing is a "top tactic" for driving brand lift and sales lift online.

Among buyers who aren't yet using branded content marketing, according to the study, 57 percent of brands and 84 percent of agencies plan to test it over the coming year. Of those that have yet to use it, 24 percent of brands and 17 percent of agencies report that nothing is preventing them or their clients from increasing spending and that they are "fully committed" to doing so, according to a statement.

Over time, O'Neal believes the trend will continue and more brands and agencies will take advantage of an increasingly social-media driven approach to marketing. "We are seeing marketers partnering strategically with publishers of highly socialized content who have audiences that are demonstrated to like, comment, and share—for program development and distribution. This increases the likelihood that their branded content marketing programs will enjoy an extended life in the social sphere," O'Neal says.

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