Content Marketing is assuming an increasingly large role in the digital campaigns of both B2B and B2C marketers, and is providing digital publishers with a potentially rich source of both revenue and content. However, there is substantial confusion about the concept, due to a multiplicity of definitions, marketing platforms and strategies. To help publishers navigate this promising but complex field, IAB recently established the Content Marketing Task Force
As a first step, the Task Force was charged with developing a Primer to define the various components of the marketplace. This Primer has now been completed,
thanks to input from the nearly 50 Task Force members, including publishers, both legacy and digital-native, and technology providers active in this space.
The Primer’s objectives are fourfold:
a) To eliminate confusion by providing alignment among competing definitions, marketing platforms, and strategies
b) To provide accurate, timely information about Content Marketing
c) To offer guidelines on conforming to editorial standards and identification of sponsorship
d) To address the need for clear disclosure to consumers and businesses
We believe the Primer will help IAB members grapple with the issues and maximize the opportunities of Content Marketing
. Because Content Marketing is a very broad term which encompasses a wide range of platforms and strategies, we felt it very important to promote understanding of what its purpose is, and how it differs from advertising. We also wanted to clarify how marketers and publishers can avoid potential pitfalls by establishing guidelines for clear disclosure. Fellow co-chairs reflect on the importance of this primer:
Content marketing has the potential to be a substantial, long-term solution to many challenges publishers face with respect not just to revenue but satisfying audiences with the kinds of valuable content and experiences they’ve come to expect. Publishers have worked tremendously hard over the years to gain the credibility that they have with audiences. Our goal is to lessen the likelihood of that happening with clear guidelines and best practices for working with their advertising partners on content marketing initiatives.
- Lisa LaCour, VP, Global Marketing, Outbrain
As marketers look to unlock the full value of their content assets and pursue even greater levels of engagement from their media investments, paid content distribution will continue to grow. It’s through this primer, with support from the industry’s leading practitioners, that the IAB looks to shine a light on this dynamic and evolving space, and provide guidance and best practices that will ultimately help shape its formation.
- Chris Schraft, President, Time Inc. Content Solutions
So, what is Content Marketing?
Recognizing that Content Marketing is a very broad term which has many competing definitions, the Primer offers this general statement:
“Content Marketing is the marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and
valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target
It further notes that content marketing differs from advertising and other promotional vehicles because its intent is to provide entertainment/information that stands on its own merit - a “pull” strategy that enhances the consumer’s attitude towards the brand, rather than a “push” strategy with a specific call to action.
Within this overall description, the Primer shows how content marketing can work across the several platforms of owned, earned and paid media. Publishers have the opportunity to capitalize on all of them in a number of ways, both as distributors and as suppliers of content.
The Primer also provides marketers with an overview of the varieties of content - original, repurposed, and curated - they can use in their content marketing strategies. Each has its advantages, as well as complexities that require consideration. Sophisticated marketers will want to experiment across the spectrum.
The Need for Transparency and Disclosure
This Primer is clear that the key to the continued growth of Content Marketing is strict adherence to the IAB dictum that “Disclosure is not an option but a requirement.” The Primer states that content marketing efforts should always be clearly disclosed to the consumer as such, irrespective of whether they are paid units, third-party paid links or social-media endorsements.
Specifically, regarding the subset of Content Marketing known as Native Advertising, the IAB Recommended Native Advertising Disclosure Principles, as outlined in the IAB Native Advertising Playbook
Regardless of context, a reasonable consumer should be able to distinguish between what
is a paid native advertising unit vs. what is publisher editorial content.
In sum, Content Marketing represents an important strategy for marketers to engage their audiences in new and exciting ways, while offering publishers the opportunity for new revenue streams. By helping to reduce confusion about terminology and establishing guidelines for meeting editorial standards, the IAB’s new Primer will, it is hoped, help this industry reach its full potential. Moving forward, according to Susan Borst
, the IAB Director of Industry Initiatives, the Task Force will focus on additional topic areas related to content marketing such as the importance of social media and measurement.
About the Author
Andrew is the CEO and a co-founder of Studio One and co-chair of the IAB Content Marketing Task Force. Previously, Susman was an executive at Time Warner and Young & Rubicam. In addition, he serves on the boards of the Advertising Educational Foundation, and Business for Diplomatic Action. A native of Missouri, he is also a certified sharpshooter and is a major supporter of the ASPCA.