So hopefully you’ve read part 4 of this limited blog series, as the two go hand and hand. For those who haven’t, part 4 is almost like an introduction to part 5, as it briefly explains how the marketing industry has officially shifted to it’s current state, and dives into the first new-age tactic, digital streaming.
As relayed in part 4, this could honestly be a 15 page in-depth report, but considering it’s formatted into a limited blog series, an attempt to be as brief as possible, while coincidingly providing a sufficient detailed analysis will be the objective here.
I’m sure you’re annoyed with my narrating at this point, so let’s begin…
I emphasize discretion when creating an ad, as it’s well known they are frowned upon. However, one effective way to utilize discretion when attempting to relay a message to an audience is what is known as, “Sponsored Content.”
What’s really interesting about sponsored content is that can effectively be utilized as a form of PR. I briefly touch up on the topic in an blog post unrelated to this series, “Carefully Crafted Public Relations.“
This method is ideal for online news sources, company websites, magazines, and blogs because sponsored content is at it’s best in written form. Can one ever find sponsored content in video or streaming form Sure, but it’s not nearly as common or as effective as it is for written sources.
Briefly, sponsored content is when an advertiser pays a media outlet to produce content that indirectly promotes their brand, product, or company.
I guarantee you, if you are an online news advocate, and consistently obtain your news and information online, you have read more than a handful of “sponsored content” pieces without even realizing it.
The concept of sponsored content was created with discretion and subtlety in mind, and it has enforced itself into being one of the most effective ways to market, period.
Disguised as a news story, or another any other form of an actual piece of content, sponsored content cleverly masks itself to form a message that encourages an audience to take an action they wouldn’t necessarily take without being enticed to do so (making you interested in a product or service).
“Isn’t that deceptive?”
It’s 100% deceptive, but that doesn’t stop advertisers from taking advantage. It’s a deceptive practice that advertisers are almost forced to utilize, as when they aren’t disguising their messages (ads), audiences are likely to be immediately turned off.
“How do I know if I’m reading sponsored content?”
Well, in some instances, the media outlet might have a policy that forces content to be marked as such. So if you happen to look through an article’s tags, and see “sponsored content” or “paid content,” that is a blatant, and easy way to tell you actually just read an advertisement.
However, not all sponsored content is labeled in black and white. Sometimes you may not be able to tell it’s an ad at all, and others are a little more obvious with diligent review of the piece.
Don’t worry, I’m here to provide some assistance. I can’t say I can help you pinpoint every piece of sponsored content that’s in existence, but I can provide a few guidelines in regards of things to look out for.
Here are just a few examples of how sponsored content can be curated. They begin with the more obvious signs, and gradually work their way to the most discrete forms.
Example 1: If you come across an article with a specific brand/company/product within the headline or title.
So if you’re scrolling through a news app, and you see an article entitled, “Sony Breaks Ground in VR Industry” or “Samsung Revolutionizing Mobile World As We Know It,” there is a more than 50% chance these are ads (sponsored content). A neutral news source is not going to curate news solely based off of one company, and they especially aren’t going to include said company in a title, unless that company paid them to… Sponsored content.
Example 2: If you find a line or attached link within a generic article that refers to a specific brand
So if you read a great ‘article’ on health coverage in America, and then all of a sudden you find yourself reading a sign off such as, “Be sure to visit our friends at United Healthcare for more information” or “United Healthcare provides coverage that meets needs for all,” it’s an ad. It’s one of the most blatant tell signs of sponsored content, and usually done on purpose to hint at the prospective partnership without being extremely straight forward about it.
Example 3: This last example is usually the most effective form of sponsored content, as it’s discretion is perfected to the point where it lacks a true definitive tell-tale sign of it being an ad in disguise.
The best way I can generically describe this is by ironically providing a specific example.
Say you come across an ad that talks about how there have been more robberies in the past year than ever before. The ‘article’ is usually brief, but detailed enough consisting of a few facts & figures that trick the reader into thinking there’s an actual news story here.
Spoiler alert… There isn’t.
They just had you read an article on how robberies are up in the past year, along with a few stats to back it up. Meanwhile, you are now thinking about how robberies are up within the past year, and without even realizing it, you start looking into security systems such as, Norton, ADT, or that ridiculous video doorbell, RING everyone loves so much.
That is called deceptive sponsored content, and you just fell for it hook line and sinker. There’s also a good chance while you’re reading this ‘article’, an ad for one of those companies was on the sidebar you probably didn’t notice as you scrolled… Yeah…
Isn’t that brilliantly evil? Advertisers beg to differ.
Ahhh, one of the newest marketing trends, social media. I’m not going to sit and explain what social media is, and how it’s utilized for marketing purposes, as I’m sure many of you see this for yourself on one outlet or another.
I will begin by stating the term “social media” is almost irrelevant at this point. Why? There’s essentially nothing social about it. It’s a clever term to entice the general population to connect with friends, family, and even their favorite brands & public figures.
Social media has turned into a marketing tool, plain and simple. The reason general audiences and users don’t necessarily pick up on it right away is it’s relative novelty.
Social media itself isn’t novel, but the way it’s currently utilized for marketing is. Until the arrival of social media, advertising was pretty straight forward (commercial, print ad, billboard), you get the idea.
Social media has disguised itself for brands to promote messages, products, and services. How do they do this? Utilizing countless methods.
First, they don’t operate a feed or a page by posting ad after ad after ad. They know that won’t be anywhere near effective. Brands have mastered the balance of providing engaging content with promotion & advertising.
Think about it, would you watch a TV channel that only aired commercials?
Would you read a magazine that only contained ads?
They insert engaging fun content, but with the all important premise of the overall objective to deliver increased sales or web traffic.
It’s the same idea here. If you knew the entire premise of a social media account on any platform was to increase sales or promote a product/service would you follow said account?
For those who have operated the back-end of a social media account, know full and well all of the advertising tools and analytics provided at your disposal. It’s a marketing wonderland, and the methods and tactics are truly unlimited in 2019.
“Well what about celebrities and public figures? Surely they aren’t utilizing it for marketing purposes?”
Oh but they are. In fact, certain celebrities are absolutely silent on a particular platform until they happen to need to promote an event, show, game they are involved in.
I thought about it, and while I was going to try not to throw anyone under the bus, I’m going to just to prove my point…
If you were to follow said accounts, you would find they all carry a massive following. It’s at this point you would notice that the only reason they post to the damn thing is to promote the show itself. So they aren’t using it as a social tool, they’re using it to promotion tool.
There’s also a good chance some of these figures/athletes/public figures have it in their contracts to operate a Twitter, Instagram, account for promotional purposes. Just one of the many limitless ways to discretely advertise on social media.
I do think some accounts are more genuine than others, but unfortunately just because you see an account of your favorite celebrity, and want to interact or engage with them, doesn’t mean it’s actually them willing to engage.
“Well then couldn’t social media be considered a form of sponsored content?”
That’s a great question, which I will quietly ignore and fail to address. 😉
Partnerships are slightly different than what one would refer to as, “Sponsored Content.” The primary difference being an obvious connection between the corresponding brands/companies.
The easiest example I can provide is within the college Football postseason.
At this point, if you’re an NCAAF FBS team that wins 6 games, you’ll go to a bowl game. Why? It has nothing to do with the quality of the product on the field, the tough or easy schedule a team plays that may or may not qualify them for postseason play, or the conference they play in.
It’s all about… Marketing opportunities and the countless dollars they bring in annually. All companies want in on the action, so to accommodate, the NCAA creates over-the-top bowl games such as, Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, and the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
Yes, those are all real bowl games, yes they are all in English for those who are wondering.
Then you have companies who declare themselves as the official soft drink of the NCAA (Dr. Pepper), or the official “Mobile Partner” (AT&T), you get the idea.
Stadium naming rights, signage, segment sponsors, etc., all have their place as some of the most effective marketing tactics in the 21st century. A partnership within sporting events as such is more blatant, and easily distinguished by the general public.
However the ones that might be tougher to pinpoint from a general audience perspective is a partnership within scripted television.
Yes, the easy example would be how The Voice happens to have a Dunkin Donuts cup sitting next to all judges with the logo perfectly facing the camera.
One of my favorite examples would have to be a recent partnership from longtime fan favorite, The Walking Dead.
A few years ago, I began to notice most vehicles used in the scripted series were unbranded, and always appropriately beat up as if they were surviving a zombie apocalypse. Except one…
I began to notice Hyundai vehicles were always somehow well kept, and whenever they were utilized in any scene, the characters in said Hyundai would never be harmed.
In fact I began a running joke that entailed the apparent need for everyone to find a Hyundai if a zombie apocalypse were to ever really take place, because those things are clearly indestructible.
In addition, I figured out whenever characters were being attacked in Hyundai vehicles they would ultimately escape, because…
They were in an indestructible Hyundai!
This theory held up for a numerous seasons (until The Walking Dead switched partnerships to Mercedes-Benz). If you go back and watch your favorite movie or TV show, there’s a good chance you will find some form of partnership within at one point or another, so keep an eye out!
There is literally so much more that can be accounted for when it comes to not only these new age tactics, but creating an overall effective marketing campaign.
Unfortunately, a five part blog series isn’t going to be able to even a cover a small fraction of it. Hopefully this limited series did expand your marketing mindset from numerous aspects and angles that could propel you to at least begin creating your very own marketing campaign in 2019.
Looking for more polls? Visit the UBD Engagement Center.