The pros and cons of branded content

NEW YORK: Content creation is an increasingly important way to engage consumers, but many communications executives are divided on the use of branded content.

NEW YORK: Content creation is an increasingly important way to engage consumers, but many communications executives are divided on the use of branded content.

Prudential Financial CCO Bob DeFillippo and Simon Kelly, CEO of North America and Asia for Story Worldwide, debated the issue Tuesday morning in Blitz Talks: Learning from the Media at the PRWeek Conference in New York.

DeFillippo voiced his opinion about how companies “cannot abandon principles between journalism and PR” and accept branded content as objective reporting.

He added that while branded content has some benefits, such as revenue for media outlets and telling companies' stories in a specific way, it lacks third-party validation and calls into question the credibility of the brand.

The solution, DeFillippo said, is to “keep the line between editorial and advertising bright.”

“All content is not equal,” he explained.  

Prudential does create its own branded content and videos for internal and external use, said DeFillippo, but the company uses it on its social channels and website.

He added that the company would rather ask a reporter to write a story about the brand, and one benefit of branded content is that a company can gain earned media exposure.

Kelly, however, disagreed with DeFillippo, saying the future of advertising is brands becoming the media rather than renting the media.

“The only strategy is to own an audience [and] hold attention with great content,” he said.

Consumers' trust in most media platforms has dropped in the last two years, except for recommendations from friends and family and consumer opinions online. Since trust has increased in these spaces, and they are cheaper than running an ad campaign, Kelly said that brands should focus here.

Many companies try to create branded content by talking about the brand or telling a great story and putting a logo on it, but Kelly said both of these strategies are wrong. The best way to engage audiences through branded material is to develop content that links back to the company and its core message and also speaks to the consumer and the brand's business goals.

Kelly added that having real journalists write for your brand is another way to create authentic and engaging content because reporters “live or die by understanding their audience.”

Using consumer insights also helps companies develop authentic branded content that will reach target audiences, said Kelly.

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