Don't be content with the old ways

Content marketing

Marketers are spotting a correlation between ‘owned media’ and traditional paid-for formats and consumers are viewing content positively. 

Many marketers believe that people want to ‘have a discussion’ with their brands, but consumers disagree. In a report exclusively seen by Marketing Week, 43 per cent of senior marketers ‘definitely agree’ that the public wants to be talked to rather than simply listening to what a brand has to say. However, only 15 per cent of consumers concur.

This might suggest that they prefer advertising to content marketing, but more than half (57 per cent) of consumers definitely or tend to agree that they feel more positive towards brands that produce content for them.

Added to this, 60 per cent of senior marketers in Britain believe that in the future, brands will be built by aligning themselves with engaging content, as well as the more traditional advertising-led approach, according to the research by content marketing agency Seven.

Combining both advertising (or paid for media) and owned properties, such as magazines, websites or brand-produced video, is an effective way for marketers to reach consumers.

It emphasises the fact that no one approach and no single channel is the answer,” says Kevin Sutherland, strategy director at Seven. “The real answer comes from using all of these different channels, and planning, creating and distributing content and paid media advertising in a truly integrated and converged way.”

The study shows that paid for media can drive audiences to owned media, turning brands’ content and channels into sustainable assets, which in turn can make paid media investment more effective.

Rather than trying to prove the point that content marketing beats all other marketing disciplines [being a content agency], we wanted to try to understand what content’s role was, as part of a converged approach to media,” explains Sutherland.

There has been a sharp increase in owned media’s importance among marketers, with two thirds of senior marketers surveyed predicting that it will be ‘important’ or ‘extremely important’ to them next year.

There’s widespread recognition that it is harder and harder to effectively connect or engage with the consumer, so anything new that comes along that opens up new possibilities to do that is always going to create disproportionate interest,” explains Sutherland.

Nearly 40 per cent of the marketers surveyed are spending 60 per cent or more of their budgets on traditional paid media, and digital paid media is attracting an average of 29 per cent of spend. Over 20 per cent of brand communications budgets are being spent on owned media.

This means that the annual UK owned media spend could now be more than £4bn, based on the Advertising Association’s measure of brands’ paid media spend in 2012 of £16.8bn.


Heineken right ran branded videos this summer under the theme ‘dropped’; Great British Chefs (left) works with brands to create contextually relevant content (source: Great British Chefs)

Historically, one of the difficulties with content marketing has been in measuring return on investment (ROI), but 80 per cent of senior marketers in the survey rate owned media as being ‘very effective’ or ‘somewhat effective’ at delivering overall ROI, a proportion in line with the ratings given to both digital and traditional paid media.

The ability to measure or demonstrate ROI is one of the major barriers to increased investment in content marketing. As any discipline becomes more established and agencies become more skilled in their adoption and practice, inevitably, you find more and better ways to demonstrate effectiveness,” says Sutherland.

There are an increasing number of tools and methods and metrics to be able to do that. The real challenge is in being able to link, or demonstrate some sort of correlation between exposure to content and actual purchase or retention. You have to then be smart, inventive and innovative about how you go about tracking that path to purchase,” he says.

The increase in spend on owned media is being spread across a diverse collection of channels. The survey finds that owned media accounts for the top four out of the most widely used channels among the marketers surveyed and six of the top nine.

Websites are at the top at 83 per cent, email follows at 76 per cent and branded social media pages on platforms like Twitter and Facebook at 70 per cent. “You would struggle to think of a brand that doesn’t have a website.

It’s not 100 per cent because we specified it was content rich websites, not purely transactional ecommerce sites,” says Sutherland.

If you had done this survey as recently as two or three years ago, I suspect branded social media would have been much lower. It’s obviously a major area of growth.”

Looking at budget changes from last year to this, the money is moving towards apps, web and search engine optimisation. At the other end of the scale, it is the non-intrusive channels - bar direct mail - that are seeing negative growth. This may be indicative of marketers having to fight harder for scarce attention as people are finding it easier to filter them out.

Original branded video content - video created specifically for the web, as opposed to simply uploading TV commercials - is also prominent, with 56 per cent of brands using this owned media channel.

Half of the brands surveyed claim to have a video strategy and a 6 per cent rise in video spend by senior marketers was reported from last year into this year, with a 10 per cent rise planned for next year.

People are accessing more and more content on mobiles and tablets, it’s an experience that is absolutely opitimsed for video and more and more brands are starting to use that,” says Sutherland.

This trend is echoed by consumers. Forty per cent say they can recall, on prompting, seeing a specific original branded video online, with viewers most likely to view video for entertainment purposes.

If you’re going to ask someone to spend time with you as a brand, and let’s face it, most content marketers require more than a 30 second commitment, content had better be either useful or entertaining. If you can be both, so much the better,” says Sutherland.

The use of content is continuing apace, across a broad range of media, he adds. “When done effectively, content marketing is not channel centric, but channel neutral. More and more brands will be using content marketing as a discipline, creating content assets and developing content ideas first, and then focusing on channel distribution afterwards.”


Content marketing agency Seven conducted telephone interviews with 71 members of advertiser body the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) to compile its research into the relationship between paid and owned media. It also surveyed online a representative sample of 2,000 British adults sourced and validated by YouGov.

Marketer’s Response


Oliver Lloyd

Chief executive
Great British Chefs (online magazine)

Content is the advertorial of old. What brands have always wanted to do is get contextually relevant stories told about them, whether through PR, advertorials or coverage. What brands are wising up to is that there are so many places you can get banner ads and exposure, but what really matters is when you’re integrated into highly relevant content. What brands come to us for is to be integrated into our stories, in the partnership model, whereby they are able to tell their story and be contextually relevant. It is unbelievable how few videos most brands in the food space have. Brands love viral videos, they love trying to get videos out there, but what they aren’t very good at doing is ‘owning’ areas of strong educational videos.


Paul Smailes
Global head of digital


Both owned and paid media will continue to play an extremely important role and in a complementary fashion because the rise of content that one sees across all channels is putting a lot of pressure on brands with their ability to cut through organically. Although the content may be powerful, you still need paid content for it to rise above the surface and allow consumers to see it in the first place and engage with it. We don’t necessarily have a ‘video strategy’, we have a content-led strategy and a storytelling strategy and video obviously plays an important role in that, not only in TV, but also with digital video as well. Traditionally, video has played a key role on channels like YouTube, but with changing formats on other major channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they’re all now offering video formats as well.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Hey Lou, a very interesting article. You picked upon the most talked about topic i.e. Traditional Advertisements vs. Content Marketing and there is no end to it. Both of them has its own pros and cons. We at Tangerine Digital ( believe that in today’s highly competitive world, Content Marketing is the way to make a business stand out in the crowd of millions.
    Thank you so much
    Team Tangerine Digital

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  • Hi Lou,

    I am a massive fan of content marketing and at Rame Marketing ( I preach this to my clients but I think you're absolutely correct when you say that there is still a place for paid media. The trick is to achieve the right balance.

    At the end of the day it's all about "Marketing" and it needs to be driven by the marketing strategy of the business and that can cover traditional marketing, content or inbound marketing, search or social media marketing. They're all part of the toolkit.

    Thanks Again
    Andrew Leon Walker

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  • This article and Seven’s research touch on some important points for content marketers. They also highlight the disturbing disparity between what marketers think and what consumers want… do 43% of senior marketers still really believe that the bulk of consumers want to be talked at? If so my guess is that 43% are sticking with the tried and trusted formulas that have worked for years and are trying to stamp that blueprint on a market that has changed dramatically.

    That aside, what the article eludes to but never actually says is, for me, the crux of the issue here, and that is that marketers need to have a holistic vision of how the end-user experiences their brand. Today, managing customer-facing content has evolved into a complex process, driven in no small part by the fact that consumer expectations have risen exponentially. To be able to cope with this, retailers and brands need to have a fully integrated approach to their content, which covers all the channels they operate in, and ensures their story is told not only in an interactive way, but also a consistent way and across the channels and media most relevant to them.

    For this reason marketers need to take an integrated approach driven by deep consumer understanding. We spend a lot of our time telling brands that they need to be considering everything from tech to content to design solutions together when it comes to developing their content strategies. And the same thing goes when it comes to considering owned versus paid-for media.

    Ultimately, the answer to this particular question comes from knowing where your customer is, what your customer wants and when, and indeed where, your customer wants it … only then can you truly engage with and be relevant to your target audience.

    Julia Hutchison
    Head of Content at Group FMG

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