“Engagement with branded content on smartphones is significantly higher than on desktop and tablet. Combined with 127% higher CTR on smartphones, the big opportunity for publishers and advertisers is clearly on mobile,” informed the latest report from Polar – a technology platform that premium publishers use to increase reach and engagement with their direct-sold branded content programs.
Titled “The State of Branded Content,” he report is based on the aggregate performance and engagement data of branded content programs run on Polar’s platform over the past year. 45,885 branded content pages were analyzed on Polar’s platform over the past year. Data was aggregated across 8 publisher verticals, 8 advertiser verticals, 3 device platforms and 5 regions for the report. (For the uninitiated ‘Branded Content’ refers to the sponsored, custom or partner content itself, also known as the postclick destination or landing page within a publisher’s environment. This is the page a user visits after clicking on a native promotion.)
According to the report, users spend on an average 132 seconds with branded content. Some of the 2000 premium publisher brands that are Polar’s customers include: The Economist, AOL, The Washington Post, The Telegraph, Postmedia, among others.
Average Time Spent by Publisher Vertical
The report states that the finance vertical by far experienced the highest time spent – 2.4x higher than the average. Publisher verticals such as Health, Sports and Special Interest were all slightly above the average. However, verticals like News, Travel and Lifestyle had the lowest relative time spent, 45% below the average.
One of the insights shared in the report states that sponsored content usually promoted within the high performing verticals usually aligns more closely with the publisher’s brand. For example, finance publishers will typically sell branded content campaigns to finance related brands, such as mortgage or insurance brokerages.
Citing an example: financial advertisers got positive returns from running ads and sponsored content on the positive storytelling online publisher, The Better India. Mihir Karkare EVP at Mirum India, had recently informed LI that quite a few brands who want to associate with positive reads such as finance brands, are working with these publishers. For instance, very recently an investment firm wanted to engage with a positive story publishing site since it felt it had a connect with the platform. “These brands want to talk about positive offerings so such sites are good to advertise rather than other sites where your ad might appear with a story that might not fit with the brand ideology,” he had said. (Read: The Rise Of Positive Storytelling Publishers In The Digital Age, And Their Impact On Society)
Average Time Spent by Advertiser Vertical
Interestingly, financial publications that have the highest Time Spent for Branded Content, performs 20% below average in advertiser vertical. Consumer Staples (Food and beverage, drugs, household & personal products) which includes Coca-Cola, Nestle, etc. slightly edges out other categories for top spot, performing 11% above average. Advertiser vertical Consumer Discretionary (auto, electronics, home apparel, leisure, retails and others) comes in last in Time Spent by a wide margin (40% below average).
One of the insights shared is categories that are tangentially related to their brand rather than clear calls to-action, thus the longer time spent. Similarly with health-care and energy there is a research and showcase element which increases dwell time. Again the more focused and specialized the content, the more attentive the reader.
Average Time Spent by Device Platform
The report states smartphone time spent is 63% higher than desktop. In fact desktop time spent is 54% lower and tablet time spent is 67% lower than the average.
Growth of smartphones and the increasing consumption patterns are one of the primary reasons. Additionally, today publishers are creating content for all platform and devices. 360 degree multimedia platform Arre’ is witnessing more than 65% traffic from mobile and and people are not just consuming short video but long format too. “Our strategy is to be where the customer is. Hence, we are available on all platforms where we are able to generate sampling and build engagement with customers. Each platform has its own user experience and we’re leveraging the positives of all platforms,” remarked Ajay Chacko, Co-Founder and CEO at UDigital. (Read: How Arré Is Telling Impactful Stories In Audio, Video & Visual Form On Digital)
Average Time Spent by Geo and Region
The last chart highlights Australia and UK audiences have the highest time spent numbers as adoption of Branded Content heats up in those regions. In fact time spent by Australians is almost 2x that of the rest of world, and well above global average.
Lower numbers seen in the US and Canada indicate the maturation and saturation of the market as users encounter more branded content. However Rest of the World which is also showing lesser numbers is due to the fact that native format is still very new to these regions.
One of the primary reasons for the huge demand of branded content has been due to the growing problems of ad-blocking. A recent study by IAB finds that the number of people using ad blockers has increased to 22 percent, it also shows that over half of users are likely to disable blockers in exchange for content.
Adblocking or installing software that removes the buggy ads that kill user reading experience is rapidly growing on mobile. Ad blocking software is set to cost digital publishers almost £19 billion by 2020, a new report from Juniper Research reveals, with global adblock users rising 41 per cent year-on-year.
However adblocking is still a very small problem for countries like India, so growth of branded content is in its early days. Nevertheless, there are publishers already moving to branded and sponsored content with less focus on the advertising. (Read: How Indian Publishers Plan To Tackle Ad Blocking)
The report further shares data related to growth of branded content creative, campaigns and historical trend. Download the complete report here.
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