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Why salespeople are critically important to branded content

Having a salesperson who really understands the format is critically important to branded content, according to journalist and digital media expert, Fara Warner.


Fara Warner ()


And Fara Warner knows what she’s talking about. She is former global content director at The Wall Street Journal and has served as editorial director at AOL and she knows from experience which difference to a campaign a salesperson can have.

The Native Advertising Institute asked her to share some of her insights and learnings.


***Fara will be among speakers from around the world at Native Advertising DAYS from 6-8 November. As a friend of FIPP, you are entitled to a €100 discount on the ticket purchase to the Native Advertising DAYS event by using the promo code FIPPFRIEND. Get your discounted ticket here.***  


I think, one of the most important things is making sure that the sales organisation understands how to sell custom content.

What is the most critical thing to keep in mind when setting up a studio from scratch?

First and foremost I do think it’s important to keep cost to a reasonable rate, because it’s really easy to grow grow grow, and the realise revenue isn’t pacing with that.

Therefore, to start from scratch, I think, one of the most important things is making sure that the sales organisation understands how to sell custom content.

And if you don’t think you can do that with the existing sales team, then you need to find a group of people who really understand how to sell the format. Because it is a different animal to sell.

And I’ve worked with salespeople who were great at it and other salespeople who struggled with it. Because it takes a longer time to sell than a traditional ad buys.

So first and foremost, I would figure out what my sales organisation need to look like to be able to sell this. Because first, you got to sell something before you can make anything.

Do these salespeople need other skills than their ability to sell native advertising?

I believe that you need a salesperson who is as creative and strategic as the studio team. Someone who can come up with ideas on the fly, who can brainstorm with clients really quickly and easily.

Someone who can then bring all that brainstorming to the studio saying, ‘the clients are really interested in this, how does this marry with what the studio can do?’

You have to lay out what the roles of responsibility are of everyone on the team, and I think salespeople are critically important to the process.

So you need a salesperson who understands both sides of the table?

Yes, salespeople who can navigate both the client side as well as the internal side are very important.

At the Wall Street Journal, we had a client who wanted me to change something in an article that I didn’t believe should be changed. And fortunately, we had a salesperson who really understood that he had a great relationship with the client and he knew that he could come to me and ask me those questions and I would give him my honest answer.

And we ended up keeping the article as it was originally because the salesperson made the client understand why the article looked the way it did.

So I think that those lines of communication are important. You have to lay out what the roles of responsibility are of everyone on the team, and I think salespeople are critically important to the process.

Not just when you’re selling a programme in but through the entire life of the programme. Because they hold the client relationship. That client might decide that next time they don’t want to do custom content, they want to run a straightforward brand ad. That’s never going to be something I’m working on in custom content but that salesperson still has to maintain a great relationship with the client.

So I believe the salespeople are critical because it’s in the relationship between the client and the salesperson that you can have those difficult conversations and those requests.

You are an official keynote speaker at this year’s Native Advertising DAYS. Why should attendees at the conference absolutely not miss your presentation?

As a journalist, who happens to work in branded content, I will be speaking honestly about the need to maintain a publisher’s voice and perspective when creating “native” content.

As this area of advertising has matured, I think clients and agencies–and indeed even some publishers–have forgotten or dismissed the critical balance between the client’s perspective and the publisher’s voice to attract the audience on the media platforms.

When a brand takes centre stage in native content, the client I believe is missing the opportunity to connect with a specific audience.

I’ll make the case that maintaining that balance is critical for native advertising to continue to grow and achieve the level of engagement clients expect.

What do you look forward to the most at this year’s Native Advertising DAYS?

It will be my first time attending Native Advertising Days so I’m looking forward to hearing the top people in my field share their experiences, hear about new technologies and measurements and of course explore Berlin, one European city that I haven’t been too!

***Meet and hear more from Fara at the Native Advertising DAYS in Berlin. Register now using your FIPP member promo code FIPPFRIEND to receive a discount of €100. Get your tickets here.***

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