Guide To Branded Content – Part 2: Who Produces Branded Content?

February 08, 2017

What’s been covered in our Guide to Branded Content Series:

Another question surrounding branded content is who creates it? Much like the different shades, there is no catch-all answer; content is created and developed in several different ways depending on the type.


Light brand association with editorially produced content. There is usually no direct brand integration.

No matter the implementation, Sponsorships (Editorial and Built-If Sold) are created in-house by a publisher’s editorial team. The cost to publishers is low as it utilizes these existing teams and thus no disclosure labels are required – the content is the same as any other presented to a reader.. The campaigns are rapid in length – 24 to 48 hours – as the content is often part of the news cycle, and can be an article, video, infographic or other content experience.

The creation process between Editorial and Built-If-Sold differs in content quantity (e.g. number of articles) and breadth. Editorial sponsorships are typically high-volume standalone pieces with no connection between campaigns. Built-If-Sold sponsorships are planned out well in advance, and often a campaign is comprised of 2-10 pieces of related content – like the Huffington Post’s sleep series sponsored by Sleep Number.

Custom Content

Branded content that is produced in partnership with an advertiser. The advertiser’s brand or products are, at varying levels, integrated into the content.

Publishers offering custom content solutions generally have highly sophisticated content creation teams which were built using the same knowledge and skillset as existing editorial teams. Many leverage a combination of both dedicated internal teams and freelance resources to produce the content.

Many publishers have in fact branded their custom content studios to further delineate from the editorial teams (e.g. Huffington Post Partner Studio or The Telegraph’s Spark division).

Under what circumstances do we typically see publishers using freelancers?

  • Video production – not all publishers have yet made the investments in video production and editing teams
  • Local subject matter expertise – at times a brand will want to create a content experience for a specific local readership group where the publisher does not have sufficient internal knowledge
  • Podcast production – podcasts are increasingly emerging as a revenue opportunity for publishers of all sizes and brands, but like video require specific recording and editing equipment and expertise to present them to potential advertisers
  • Technical designs and illustrations – design teams can be quite small relative to the editorial team and occasionally require outside support for bigger projects

Creation costs often differ between Integrated and Promotional Custom Content. While they both have costs elevated from straight sponsorship due to the bespoke nature of the content by a separate team or freelancer, Promotional campaigns can cost that much more to produce because of the increased effort and resources required to show a brand or product in use within the content.

The campaign usually consists of one core piece of content, consisting mostly of a long-form piece of written content or well-produced video. Campaign lengths are bumped up to month-long cycles, justified by the time and effort going into the campaign creation and the breadth of the content. However, the publisher effort into distribution may last only 1-4 weeks.

Articles and videos are the most common forms of executing Custom Content campaigns, no matter what the level of integration.

Advertiser Content

Advertisers themselves producing content but looking to partner with publishers to drive distribution of that content.

Advertiser Content is mostly produced by an advertiser’s own internal marketing team or their agency of record. Hosting content on a publisher’s site can potentially lower costs as the advertiser is either paying marketing agency (or utilizing their own internal marketing team) for the creation of the content and depending on the publisher to host it. With Destination campaigns, costs can elevate as not only does the advertiser pay for content creation, but also provide the hosting space such as their own website, a one-off destination, or a hosted video service like YouTube or Vimeo.

Where Hosted campaigns contain a thought-leadership element, the content and subject matter usually have an evergreen quality which allows the campaign to extend from 1-6 months, giving a publication’s readers the chance to discover the content organically. Destination campaigns are more in-sync with events, trends, and an advertiser’s own marketing schedule and thus adhere to a shorter 1-4 weeks cycle.

This is reflected in the breadth of the campaigns and their content formats as well. Hosted campaigns typically form a multi-part series as part of a larger thought-leadership initiative and thus are predominantly article based. With so many moving pieces involved in Destination campaigns, they usually consist of one core piece of content for where the rest of the promotional elements can point.

What was stated in the previous installment of this series still holds true: as different content initiatives are created throughout the marketing funnel, they’ll often straddle the different shades and incorporate elements of each to create their own unique campaigns – the seemingly unlimited number of options is another reason advertisers are embracing Branded Content.

Need to know more about how Branded Content aligns with the marketing funnel? Check out Part 1: The Basics, Part 3: Pricing Models, and Part 4: Disclosure & Distribution in Polar’s ongoing series.


JULY 2017

Polar’s Snapshot of Global Branded Content Performance presents the complete picture for major markets and publishers this past quarter.