By Tom Bannister
Ad-blocking aside, 2016 has been the year of the branded content studio. Companies on different sides of the marketing industry. from brands to agencies to publications. have launched in-house studios, and the year has, paradoxically, culminated with respected thought leaders coming down on either side of the trend. (“South Park”’s final three episodes versus the NY Times, which proudly announced thirty five million in revenue from T Brand Studio.)
There’s certainly room for improvement. For example, better classification of brand-funded content subcategories (it’s confusing to bracket a short form video campaign on Vine with a high-end example like “The Lego Movie”).
Perhaps disruption will drive innovation? So lets take a look at factors, which might begin to disrupt the branded content business in 2016:
Overuse and Poor Quality
Similar to “banner blindness,” too much of the same thing reduces effectiveness. Brands will need to innovate beyond the social media influencer campaign, the UGC hash tag campaign, the two-minute brand film and other well-worn branded content staples to stand out against competition in 2016.
E-commerce sites such as Amazon orient consumers to user-generated reviews above professionally produced marketing. User-generated reviews are among the most trusted digital content types, because they are impartial. Where does branded content fit in in a world where everybody shops on Amazon Prime?
Ad blocking mania has mostly been restricted to its ability to block out banners, pre-roll and other instruments of interruptive advertising. But ad blocking also targets paid media, which is driving a lot of awareness and viewership of branded content campaigns (at scale).
Programmatic and ad-tech promises to take the inefficiency out of advertising. Although ad-tech preaches the merger of science and creativity, how far can subjectivity and serendipity really be aligned with true science (outside of analyzing effectiveness post campaign)?
Along with ubiquity and poor quality comes tighter regulation. In general, it’s a good thing, but will it address the nuances — different content types, infotainment versus entertainment, age groups and product categories?
With prime time viewing increasingly shifting to non-advertising platforms like Netflix, is this a sign that viewers are beginning to choose ad-resistant safe havens over the unrestricted international waters of the open web? YouTube Red is an SVOD platform that offers brand funded content along with the Netflix-esque experience, so it will be interesting to see how this mixture performs in 2016.