Politico’s branded content studio’s revenue grows as it rolls out quick-turnaround products

The volatile news cycle can challenge marketers who are looking to respond to key political moments and reach political figures. To help advertisers address the issues of the day, Politico’s branded content studio Focus has been relying on its suite of quick-turnaround sponsored content formats that it began rolling out in April.

Politico Focus’ Advocacy product suite has contributed to the studio’s branded content revenue increasing by 48% to date this year after growing by 55% year over year in 2020, according to Chris Tassa, executive director of branded experience for Politico’s Audience Solutions arm. Overall, Politico’s ad revenue is experiencing “double digit growth” year over year, said Tassa, who declined to share specific revenue figures.

Politico has one sales team for all of its ad revenue. The bulk of Politico Focus’ business is derived from custom and often long-term campaigns for brands’ reputation management and messaging around national issues. To build on that reach, Politico Focus unveiled a new website on Oct. 6 to tout its offerings.

The Advocacy products are “designed to be more templated, to get them out faster, and are lightly customizable” said Katie Wojcik, executive director and head of brand content at Politico Focus. While this timeline ranges per campaign, the turnaround time can be as little as weeks instead of months, a spokesperson said.

There are four Advocacy products: 

Politico Focus has created sponsored content via its Advocacy products for organizations like the American Society of Travel Advisors, the Internet and Television Association, StriveTogether and the National Corn Growers Association. Financial agreements of those deals were not disclosed.

The Advocacy product suite, as well as other rapid-response solutions Politico Focus launched last year at the onset of the pandemic, were created in response to marketers’ demands for more tools to “reach policymakers and their staff with their policy agendas” amid the pandemic and the need to “increasingly react to a more volatile news cycle,” Wojcik said. The Advocacy products can address pending legislation, a breaking news crisis or a call-to-action around COVID relief funding, as examples.

The templated products also help the team respond to advertisers’ changing timelines and shortened RFP cycles. The Politico Focus team doesn’t have to keep going “back to the well” for every campaign, and the audience can become more familiar with the look of these formats on the website and recognize them as sponsored content, Wojcik said.

“Timelines have essentially been cut in half and clients’ timeline expectations have become a lot shorter,” said Michelle Chong, group planning director at agency Fitzco. Templated product offerings would need to be “very specific for it to be really good… but it definitely fulfills a need, with more off the shelf options,” Chong said.

Politico Focus, which launched in 2015, creates sponsored digital content for brands that primarily lives on Politico’s website. The content is usually promoted for four to six weeks on the homepage through native ad units. Politico Focus’ content ranges from interactive visual packages, multimedia Q&As with audio, video and graphics, animated videos, documentaries, listicles, explainers, 3D data illustrations and branded podcasts. Past clients have included Ericsson, American Investment Council, Amazon, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Delta Air Lines and Genentech. 

The studio is made up of about a dozen content strategists and client managers, according to Wojcik. Focus also works with a group of contributors of writers, developers and designers. The Politico Focus team has a total of three branded content producers, after hiring an additional one in early 2021, the most it’s had in-house.

While branded content has not necessarily been a focus area for the clients Chong works with, it “makes sense” that some advertisers are seeking this out, and that Politico Focus is experiencing that shift. “Political context and the placement of our ads has become an area of concern for some of our clients — and us as an agency — due to the election cycle and new administration,” Chong said.

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