Branded content: taking publisher DNA into a new field

This is the view of Justin Pearse, managing director of The Drum Works, The Drum’s content marketing business. Before taking up the position at The Drum Works, Pearse was an associate director at content, community and communications agency Bite for two years, but his roots lie in journalism – 16 years in total, of which 12 at New Media Age, where he ended up as editor.

Pearse will be on the judging panel for The Drum’s Content Awards

He shared some thoughts with on the current state and the future of branded content, good (and poor) examples of content marketing campaigns and what it takes to create award-winning campaigns.

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Blurring of lines

“Lines between brands, agencies and publishers are truly blurring. It’s the well-known phrase ‘brands as publishers.’ Media is not what it was anymore and professional media is not the only source for information anymore. Brands have an acute right to provide content, as do their agencies. 

“Look at Red Bull. It’s a media house. There are also for example several financial brands that provide professional content to their audiences, and they invest an incredible amount in journalism.”

It’s got to be authentic, and good

“There are of course boundaries to consider, but social media have brought transparency to that. If you are not authentic, users will very quickly call you out. Authenticity is incredibly important.

“In the end everyone (publishers, brands and agencies) can win, but then the content has to be done properly. To think of content as only a tool for lead generation – as many still do – is not good enough.”

Key (branded content) milestones in the past 12 months

“For me it was publishers starting to launch branded content agencies. It started with Guardian Labs (in the UK) in February last years and with several publishers following. These divisions act exactly like agencies, with the similar roles, approaches and processes. It is quite a watershed moment, because publishers really know their audiences and how to engage with them. It has changed the market and lifted the bar.”

Brands doing it well

“There are the obvious ones like Red Bull, but I think people should also take a close look at what’s happening in B2B verticals, such as finance. Barclays have for example employed an editor-in-chief, they have editorial meetings and pretty much do what any other publisher would do. They’re pretty much a publishing outfit.”

And publishers?

“Storytelling is in publishers’ DNA. This is just taking that into a different field.”

About The Drum Content Awards

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