Standby for the next wave of branded content

It’s been five-or-so years since content marketing become a proper “thing”. During the first few years, we were just trying to figure out what it meant.

Marketers were trying hard not to be bad at it and publishers were working out how to integrate the paid stuff alongside their own content. Luckily, things have now settled down. The product suite has matured and some form of content is found on most media plans. Content fits a bit more neatly into a box.

Now that the next wave of content marketing is starting to build offshore here are three developments I’m personally looking forward to working on:

  1. Podcasts

New Zealand publishers are only just starting to jump onto podcasts as a channel. Some, like Stuff’s “Black Hands”, have been hugely successful, receiving millions of downloads. Others are hit-and-miss.

Though branded podcasts are still in their infancy here, the channel has matured significantly in overseas markets. In the US, brands like GE, with their “Podcast Theatre” unit, have heavily invested in podcasts and are now seen internationally as leading and legitimate content creators. Being trusted as content experts will pay off for GE for years to come.

Kiwi brands are still more cautious at present and err towards channels that come with more of a guaranteed audience. I get it.

However, the opportunity is there for a brand to lead the Kiwi podcasting revolution! There’s no clutter – it’s open air, and the reach risk can be mitigated to some extent by partnering with content creators who are experts in audio creation to make sure it’s impactful.

As broadcasters, I think podcasts are a big part of radio’s future. Audience engagement levels are incredible, with Edison PodCon17 research showing 86 percent of people listen to the majority, if not the entire, episode. With a podcast, you get to people when their concentration isn’t elsewhere – they’re at the gym, or in traffic, or going for a run. On-demand audio content, on your phone, just makes sense.

  1. Brand-funded TV shows

Broadcasters are looking at alternative funding models while, at the same time, brands are wanting to connect with audiences through content. There are overlapping objectives here.

We’ve seen a bit of brand-funded TV in recent years, notably Slice of Paradise on TV3 (now Three) in 2017, funded (in part at least) by realestate.co.nz. Meanwhile, shows like The Block NZ continue to demonstrate that it’s possible to have a high-rating show with high levels of brand integration. Content creators are already pitching show ideas directly to clients, knowing that it’s an easier sell into a broadcaster with a client already on board funding the show.

Yes – broadcasters and publishers are the content experts. But brands are also no longer the novices they once were. As a result, further opportunity lies in agencies and brands taking raw ideas (born out of marketing strategy) to content creators and broadcasters, with shows built through collaborative efforts. This requires flexibility and good will, but get it humming and the benefits are there for all.

  1. Data storytelling

With a few exceptions – Spark Lab being one – most B2B content we see is either dry reporting of figures packaged up to offer some sort of utility, or stock standard client case studies. The first is usually boring while the latter is hardly original.

But, combo them both up and you’ve got the bones of a powerful story. 

An original insight from an original piece of research, market report or survey, can grab a headline. Adding real stories or people that demonstrate life impact provides the colour and soul. Journalists have always done this, but B2B content usually misses the mark.

The magic always comes to life in cases where the heart meets the mind.


Dallas Gurney is general manager of Spark PR & Activate at PHD and a former broadcasting executive. Disclosure: Spark Lab and MediaWorks are clients of Spark PR & Activate at PHD.

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