The following piece is a cross-posted guest post from Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar, a company that works with publishers on native advertising. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication. Read more about MediaShift guest posts here.
How are clients measuring the success of their branded content programs with premium publishers? Ninety-five percent of publishers we spoke with said it is now views, either pageviews for written content or video views for branded video. These are views of the actual branded content, not the promotional native media or impressions.
When researching our latest whitepaper, “The Business of Branded Content,” we interviewed over 30 premium publisher executives, examining how they run, manage and sell their branded content programs. Below is a summary of what we learned.
Top Success Metrics
Most publishers leverage a combination of metrics when reporting campaign success to clients. Time spent with content and social actions are used by almost half of all publishers for their clients’ campaign reports. However, in almost all cases (95%), clients measure success in part by the number of views for the branded content itself.
This opens up a number of opportunities for publishers to establish themselves as leaders in the field in two major ways:
- By educating clients on the importance of measuring success based on both content and engagement metrics.
- By promoting benchmarking success against these content metrics, rather than the traditional ad metrics that are often difficult to anticipate.
The Evolution of Native Performance Metrics
Performance metrics for branded content are evolving from measuring traditional Ad Metrics (impressions, clicks, CTR) to Content Metrics, such as pageviews and time spent. Engagement metrics are even more prevalent with performance reporting, as clients expect publishers to drive social actions with the brand’s content (e.g. Facebook likes vs. shares). The next phase, which some publishers have already started, will evaluate the effectiveness and impact on brand lift.
Measuring Brand Lift
The evolution of success metrics requires audience studies that measure program effectiveness and brand lift. A majority of publishers cite branded content programs as serving ‘top-of-the-funnel’ marketing objectives.
However, most publishers do not consistently measure brand metrics (for example, metrics such as awareness or consideration).
“With the lack of consistency on measuring brand metrics, many default to the execution experience working with a publisher as a proxy for results.” — Kenley Bradstreet, Head of Sales, Slate
Approximately 29 percent of publishers now employ third-party audience surveys as means for measuring effectiveness. Millward Brown or Nielsen’s Audience Measurement Solutions are cited as common third-party tools.
About one third of publishers leverage in-house audience survey tools, which could include a combination of online surveys or phone interviews. Finally, there are almost a third of publishers who do not utilize any solution to measure brand lift from a campaign.
Sophisticated publishers are offering clients both pre and post-study surveys to accurately showcase the impact to brand lift and there is a general consensus that current research methodologies are not designed for branded content – there remain a lack of credible benchmarks.
“Content engagement metrics can be meaningless if the brand is not well integrated into the program.” — Josh Stinchcomb, SVP Managing Director, Conde Nast
This offers another opportunity for premium publishers to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace:
- Start thinking of brand lift studies as part of a differentiated proposition to brands.
- Proactively build out a brand metrics strategy as part of the branded content program.
- Polar anticipates this to be a standard line item in most RFPs in the near future.
Kunal Gupta is the founder & CEO of Polar and a Founding Member of Publisher 2020. Polar provides a technology platform that over 2,000 publisher sites around the world use to strengthen and grow their digital content marketing businesses. Connect with him on LinkedIn Medium or Twitter.