There are no longer just two sides to every story. In the world of branded content there’s now a minimum of three: a brand side, an audience side and an editorial side.
This can prove a little tricky, as everyone knows that three is a crowd. Someone always gets left out. That awkward gooseberry waiting eagerly or grumpily in the wings.
So how did we end up with this unholy trinity? Traditionally brands held relationships with audiences through advertising, while editorial and audiences were well acquainted via journalism. Both these relationships were solid and steady with each party knowing exactly where they stood.
But there was a third relationship, the one between the brands and editorial. It was an awkward relationship, and it took the clunky form of advertorials.
It’s this third relationship that’s changed. Advertorials just don’t cut it anymore and that awkward relationship couldn’t continue. The brave new world of native has flung these two reluctant bedfellows together in a ménage à trois with audiences. Think of it like an arranged marriage that not everyone has entered willingly.
Editorial have always kept brands at arm’s length, citing legitimate concerns over integrity and credibility. But the media landscape has shifted and rather than seeing branded content as a threat that will frighten off audiences, editorial teams need to appreciate what an opportunity it presents. For now, brands are willing to pay for content and they’re open minded about what that content can be. So it’s not simply a case of crowbarring a sales message into every piece of communication, things have evolved since then. Branded content is more refined.
The quick-learning editorial teams have already understood this. There’s an opportunity to take control of the paid-for market, using their editorial expertise to raise the standard of branded content so it genuinely competes with, and even outperforms, traditional editorial content.
So there’s a choice. Either ignore branded content, leave it in the hands of the marketers, and carry on complaining about the quality of it. Or embrace it and help make it better. At Trinity Mirror Solutions we’ve gone for the latter and built an Invention department that has the sole focus of delivering branded content that meets editorial standards.
To do this, you have to have editorial expertise, which is why our Invention department consists of former journalists, some of whom also have ad agency experience. Having sat on both sides of the editorial and commercial divide, we have a unique perspective on how the two can work together.
The most striking thing that’s clear from this vantage point is how similar the two crafts really are. They just approach things from opposing ends. While a journalist aims to cut through the noise, to get to the truth of a story, a marketer starts from a single truth, or insight, and builds a story from the bottom up.
In Invention our creative team of ex-journalists approach client briefs from both ends, allowing us to find solutions that work for the brands and our audiences but don’t corrupt editorial integrity. We take a brand story, give it editorial credibility and deliver something the audience will find interesting in an environment they trust. And our research has shown that audiences aren’t fussed if that content has been paid for by a brand or not, as long as it’s good.
It’s not a complicated process, but until you’ve got experience of working on both editorial and commercial sides it can be hard to put it into practice.
The role of creative editorial director within the Invention department is akin to that of a matchmaker, bringing editorial and brands together in an environment that ensures they hit it off. Because if you can do that and the sparks fly, the result will be high quality branded content that satisfies the brand, the editorial team and most importantly the audience. And satisfying all three parties is the measure of success for any good threesome.