It’s no secret that Federated Media has deep roots in content marketing: We re-imagined CM for the modern web eight years ago, and since then have executed thousands of content-driven programs with hundreds of awesome publishers, services, and brands. “All Brands Are Publishers” has been one of our core mantras since our founding. And each year we run the CM Summit, where the topic of native, content, and conversation-driven marketing across all digital platforms is dissected.
Back when I was first studying the intersection of brand marketing and technology – about the same time as The Search and the founding of FM – I started talking and writing about “The Conversation Economy.” Its core theme is this: “In the future, all companies must learn how to have 1-1 conversations with their customers at scale, leveraging digital technologies.”
Back then, actually executing on such an idea seemed a pipe dream. Recall, this was before Twitter, before Facebook, and before the Lumascapes. But one reason I love this industry is that we can dream big, and a few short years later, those dreams can become reality.
With the proliferation of “native” platforms like Twitter, Google, Facebook, Tumblr, and blogs, the idea of “branded publishing” has truly caught on. Every major agency (and publisher) has a brand storytelling shop, some have gone so far as to declare publishing to be central to their future. This is a very good thing – the massive infrastructure of media and marketing is slowly reshaping itself to become more nimble and responsive to how the world actually communicates.
But storytelling alone isn’t enough to get the job done. As an industry we need a platform that allows us to distribute those stories to just the right people, at just the right time, in just the right context. Up until recently, the only platform that allowed that kind of precision was search – hardly a great story telling medium for marketers, and driven by direct response dollars, in the main.
In the past few years, programmatic adtech has erupted onto the scene, but again, this technology platform has been used primarily for direct response. Programmatic’s rise has in large part been driven by “retargeting” – the practice of identifying a customer who visits your site, then finding him or her across the web and serving ads related to what they saw during their visit. Retargeting is now a core conversion tool for sophisticated direct marketers. It’s why that pair of shoes you looked at on Zappos keeps following you around the web.
Two years ago, we developed a thesis at FM: Programmatic adtech was going to drive brand marketing, and the bridge between the two would be content marketing. That’s why we bought Lijit Networks, one of the largest independent adtech companies in the United States. We believed then, and even more so now, that programmatic + content marketing = brand building.
While direct response is important, building brand awareness, preference, and loyalty remains a fundamental need. Brands need a scaled way to tell their stories to the right people in the right context. In the past 18 months, “scaled walled gardens” like Facebook land Twitter began to offer native advertising suites that offered just that promise (Tumblr offers a similar promise, one Yahoo! believes it can deliver upon).
But what about the “rest of the Internet”? While it’s fun to try out new “native” sites like Buzzfeed, the web wants a scaled play in “content marketing” that also checks the boxes of efficiency and highly evolved targeting.
Well, we’d like to introduce you to FM’s newest product suite, which (for now) we’re calling “Content Reachtargeting.” Internally, we like to refer to this effort as the “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup” of marketing – you have your chocolate of high-quality content mixed with the peanut butter of programmatic retargeting. A perfect combination.
Here’s how FM’s content reachtargeting works (it’s quite simple, really). A brand executes a content marketing program (for illustration purposes, let’s use Levi’s, whose Curve ID program with FM recently won Gold from the Content Marketing Awards.) Below is one of the many pieces of content we created for that campaign:
At present, most content marketing, including the Curve ID program, is created and distributed in what might be called a “traditional” fashion. We worked with Levi’s and its agencies to create great content through our network of high quality independent publishers. Those publishers posted their content on their own sites, and we distributed it as part of a flighted media plan across related FM sites. Our best performing units are often our “native conversationalist” product, which place the content in the editorial well of related sites.
But while these kind of content marketing programs have extraordinary results (I’ll spare you the details, but FM’s content programs perform three to thirty times better than industry benchmarks), they lack the reach and frequency that brands crave. Wouldn’t it be great if you could identify individuals who have seen that great branded content, then show them more of it as they cruise the rest of the Internet? And better yet, wouldn’t it be great if that content could be presented to you in the right context – IE, if you first saw that Levi’s Curve ID content on a women’s lifestyle site, you’d see similar content on similar sites that you visit across the web?
The possibilities are quite diverse, and very exciting. You could create concentric circles with branded content at the core, identifying audience members who have shared the content, viewed the content, or simply visited sites where the content is hosted. And you can extend your reach and identify audiences similar in nature to those who have responded to your branded content, but haven’t yet been exposed to it. Or you can narrow down your messaging to just those who have shared the branded content – those special individuals might get exposed to creative that thanks them for sharing. Imagine that – intelligent banners that speak directly to an individual! It’s now possible with the combination of content marketing and programmatic infrastructure.
In essence, FM’s new product suite is all about making this possible. It combines Federated’s two great strengths – our eight years of content marketing savvy and our scaled and sophisticated programmatic exchange (we see around 300mm uniques a month – that’s scale!). We’ll be announcing the details during Adweek this coming September, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’d like more information about working with us on content retargeting, give us a shout!