So, what happened?

The display campaign burned brightly for a couple of weeks and then disappeared. The earned media campaign was D.O.A, supported only via a few sponsored posts on Twitter and, subsequently, generating only a few hundred listens.

Imagine instead if the client had supported her earned media campaign with the budget earmarked for the repurposed TV ads. Would the campaign still have sunk without trace? Or would the owned media (the music content) have caught a spark and generated meaningful exposure? 

One thing is certain. Compromise leads to half-hearted, half-baked decisions.  

Across the digital media landscape there are a surfeit of agencies and platforms, all ready to silo your campaigns into a specialism, whether it’s search, social, video, mobile, display or native content solutions. 

The pitfalls of DIY

We’re also seeing advertisers get more directly involved as they increasingly look to content creation as a way to engage with consumers more effectively. But how many campaigns fail to deliver results because brands attempt to create and seed digital content on their own? 

In this system, how many campaigns are truly joined up? How many campaigns are compromised because they try to tick too many boxes or spread themselves too thin? 

This is especially true when it comes to trying to connect owned, earned and paid media, where you need to understand and respect the interplay between different channels and their respective user habits.  

Since this concept was first aired by Daniel Goodall in 2009 the exciting part for clients has always been earned media. With social networks delivering word-of-mouth at unprecedented scale, the brand benefits of positive earned media are greater than ever.

Earned media isn’t a God-given right 

However, therein lies the catch. Earned media isn’t a God-given right for brands. It requires credible and engaging owned media, allied to carefully planned distribution and an intelligent paid media campaign that complements and supports the content.  

Compromises don’t work here. Throwing your content out onto a social platform without media support and hoping it will catch is naïve at best. You’ve probably just launched a ghost ship

Owned, earned and paid media work best when you join the dots between them. 

The companies most suited to deliver this strategy are not necessarily social media or content marketing agencies. I’d argue that digital publishers have an important role to play. Ironically though, their advances are often the ones being ignored as brands rush to establish themselves as publishers in their own right. 

The advantages of co-creation

When it comes to creating branded content, for example, there are many advantages of doing so in conjunction with acclaimed publishing brands rather than creating and seeding content on one’s own. This can be summarised as: 

  • Established credibility.
  • Access to talent.
  • Cheaper “turn-key” solution.
  • Guaranteed results.

Acclaimed publishers have established credibility or what we call “pre-sold popularity.” They are already established as influencers among their audience which, if respected, can be harnessed by brands to trigger earned media. This is particularly important when targeting young adults. 

Publishers also have fantastic access to talent, not just in-house, but also via their editorial contacts, which can be more cost efficient than a brand direct approach. 

Most importantly though, an established publisher can offer a turn-key campaign. Put simply, they know not only how to make great content but also how to guarantee that it is seen. 

Heineken branded entertainment example Square Enix branded entertainment example

Recently brands such as adidas, Square Enix, Samsung, Sony and Heineken have co-created original video, editorial and events with respected artists, musicians and celebrities such as The Game, Steve Aoki and Clinton Sparks. 

The media owner then works alongside the brand to distribute their co-created content across both publisher and brand social channels, while supporting the campaign with high impact paid media across the publishers’ owned and operated properties. 

These campaigns are an inevitable success. One campaign alone generated over 4.1m video views through guaranteed paid media & seeding, as well as over 115,000 page views of editorial and over 250,000 natural search results. 

As brands learn to appreciate the interplay between owned, earned and paid media, I’d expect publishers to continue their advance into brand creative solutions. Ultimately, as display media becomes increasingly commoditised, this is where their long term investment will lie.