Measurement and attribution have always been difficult in advertising, digital or otherwise. But branded content especially has been more of a challenge, with brands struggling to justify their investments in the discipline — and sometimes, not knowing what they’re even looking for.

But in conversations with publishers and agency staffers selling branded content recently, some say they’re becoming disillusioned with their own efforts to demonstrate its ability to provide a return on investment.

“I often wonder why clients keep spending… We don’t make a particularly compelling case for it,” one branded content salesperson at a publisher said, who added that it’s getting harder to retain repeat business from many clients after they’ve “dipped a toe.”

An agency staffer said the lack of generally accepted metrics for branded content measurement actually made it easier for them to talk around questions about hard ROI, and to convince their clients there was value there somewhere, it was just hard to actually put a finger on.

Measurement vendors will tell you that marketers simply aren’t spending enough to measure and understand the impact of their expenditure, and that doing so would force them to think more carefully about their approach to the medium. There may be some truth to that. But for publishers, branded content margins are getting slimmer, and dedicating resources to holding clients’ hands is getting harder to justify for their businesses. It’s no surprise many publishers are gravitating towards more commerce-driven branded content, from which they can more easily point to tangible results in the form of direct sales.

Some marketers are more confident in their branded content investments than others, of course. And some are less concerned about having any hard numbers at all that point to positive results. But for those who want evidence of what their ad dollars are actually buying, the picture isn’t becoming clearer particularly quickly. And in many cases, the people selling the products are running out of ideas, too. — Jack Marshall

The post-Cannes carousel
Nick Law’s high-profile departure from Publicis Groupe — he’s heading to Apple for an unnamed position — is surprising, but the timing of it isn’t. The week or two after the Cannes Lions always brings extra energy to ad agency revolving doors.

Just this week, David Miami also had a slew of departures, including of its two high-profile execute creative directors. At IPG, Magna president David Cohen left this week. A couple of years ago, Grey London had its top three execs, all chairman leave two weeks after Cannes. It’s a pattern.

While of course most of these recruitment efforts have probably been in the works for weeks, announcements generally tend to happen after the high profile event that is the Cannes Lions. After all, many top execs are on juries and have other duties at Cannes. “It would look enormously bad for agencies to have their top execs, especially creative ones, leaving before Cannes happens,” said one top agency recruiter. “Clients expect to be wined and dined by these people, and they’re enormously important to be trotted out.”

Another recruiter theorized that most of them were basically out of the door for weeks before Cannes, but were asked to stay on precisely for that reason. “I love the after-Cannes resignation letters. They’re so transparently timed,” said this person.  — Shareen Pathak

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