Nov 09, 2017

This is not an advert! - The trouble with sponsored content

From our mobile phones to the buses that pass in the street, our world has become saturated with advertisements. The steady growth of the industry has made it cheaper and more accessible to advertise than ever, putting the focus on not the ad itself, but on targeting and prevalence.

This overloaded strategy has worked in the past, a good product shown to the right people matters little of content, but we forget that innately humans do not like advertisements. Since television commercial breaks were invented, people were skipping them to go to the toilet or make a cup of tea. Advertisers had to make more and more exciting commercials to convince watchers to stay.

This is the same with our online viewing habits. You may have ‘banner blindness’ yourself, where users will unconsciously ignore all forms of banner, or sidebar advertisements. Now there is a new blindness, ‘content blindness’ where people will scroll right past any sponsored or corporate content in their Instagram’s, Facebooks and LinkedIns. But how do we recognise ‘true’ content from advertising?

Sponsored content and the plague of ‘fake news’ has trained us to spot authors quickly. Now when we look at a Facebook feed or any form of media publication, we innately scan for indicators of the publisher before we read any of the content. This is so instantaneous, that when we encounter something we consider ‘false’ content, we recognise and skip right past it without engaging in the content itself.

This now leaves only two scenarios for any online content to be read. Either:

a. The user already trusts the content provider and acknowledges that it is either sponsored or corporate content and chooses to read the content through either brand affinity or a genuine interest in the content that is usually published

b. The content is so unbelievably eye catching and catches the user so off guard that it will bypass the readers usual habit of skipping sponsored and corporate content.

For both of these scenarios, good, coherent, resonating content needs to be provided so that the user now trusts you as a source of insightful, humorous or emotional responses, that they will come back willingly.

Content is king, but more importantly, Quality is the shadow government propping him up.

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