How News UK spreads branded content across platforms

News UK has had success with branded content on its own sites, with previous branded-content campaigns boasting up to nine-minute dwell times. But lately the publisher has been branching out its branded-content offering by expanding the number of social platforms it distributes to.

The Sun ran a campaign for Hasbro brand Monopoly in January, in which the brand wanted to get word out that they were changing the game’s pieces (bye-bye, beloved thimble) and get fans to vote on their replacements. By combining the publisher’s first-party data, editorial insight and tools like News UK-owned Unruly, which allows the publisher to test the reaction to video creative before going live, it distributed video on The Sun’s Snapchat Discover channel, Facebook, Apple News, and on The Sun.

On Snapchat Discover, where The Sun’s channel has on average 750,000 daily unique users, The Sun ran a minute-long spoof news report, cut vertically and referencing that it’s on Snapchat. The same video on Facebook is edited to reference the news feed, where it has had 226,000 views. On Apple News and on The Sun, it pushed out a text article with a video embedded, and the dwell times were twice as high as what they had planned for branded content. Overall, the campaign’s video views across all platforms combined beat campaign goals by 23 percent.

“Widely it’s known in the industry that it’s more than just a shorter edit,” said Joanna Carrigan, head of branded content online at News UK. “You have to pull branding far further up to catch the viewer earlier. You have to add subtitles and be more concise and suited for that platform.” For the last three months, all video that News UK produces and publishes is cut vertically.

Traditionally, there’s been more of a gulf between the readers of the tabloid and News UK’s broadsheet, The Times, but thanks to digital, that gap is closing. Online, 60 percent of the The Sun’s readers are now within the socio-economic band ABC1, a U.K. categorization system meaning they have more middle-class readers online than the print tabloid.

“We’re typically mindful of the different audiences,” said Carrigan, adding that now briefs are starting to come in for campaigns where clients want access to both audiences. “The tone would be the biggest area where we would differentiate the content: The Times is more factual; The Sun is more playful and humorous.”

As The Times is behind a paywall, it’s taken more consideration about where branded campaigns are published off-platform. For now, branded content is distributed just to Facebook, but it’s exploring how it will work on Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles.

For instance, The Times and specialist dog-food brand James Wellbeloved, partnered on a branded-content series detailing how pet dogs have helped people in overcoming depression, for example. It created video with cuts for social and also created a series of ads for social using Storyful, News UK-owned platform which surfaces trending topics within user-generated content and secures licensing, so brands can use them for campaigns. According to Carrigan, these over-delivered on guaranteed views, estimated social reach and interaction.

According to Carrigan, over half of clients choose to have their branded content available in front of the paywall, giving them access to The Times’ first-party data, with the benefit of the platform’s scale, while others choose to keep the audience more exclusive.

“If there’s a campaign that needs to be on all platforms, we’ll embrace that,” said Carrigan. “That’s something we’re expecting in 2017, as budgets for branded content increase.”

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