Ad placement and viewability have become a — if not the — hot topic of 2017 (at least in the media world).

Where ads are appearing and who is actually viewing them was propelled into the limelight by both P&G’s Marc Pritchard and The Times’ revelations about online ad placement earlier this year. GroupM’s announcement about viewablity standards and the IPA’s open letter to Google and Facebook about brand safety are the most recent developments to stem from the issue.

Branded partnerships link established brands together while attracting new customers.
Branded partnerships link established brands together while attracting new customers.

The problem with low-cost programmatic placement was explained brilliantly by the Guardian’s Hamish Nicklin at ISBA’s annual conference in March: “If we apply that principle of low-cost advertising to branding in the real world, what you might get is, say, Rolex wanting to target ‘City boys,’ putting an ad in a urinal in a boozer in the City, because you’re targeting that individual in a very, very cheap way ... Rolex would never be happy with that, but that’s what happens every single day on the Internet.”

If recent research from the CMO Council is anything to go by, consumers aren’t oblivious to the effects of questionable ad placement. The survey found 48% of people will abandon a brand if they see its ads next to “objectionable” content or on fake news sites.

Coupled with the fact that 60% of consumers say offensive content on Facebook and Twitter have caused them to “consume more content from trusted, well-known news sources and established media channels,” it’s clear consumers are sensitive to what content and ads they are being served online.

The study also concluded 63% of people would respond better to a social media ad if it appeared on a more “traditional” ad channel. This supports Newsworks’ project with Flamingo and Tapestry, which found news brand content on social media is 1.4 times more trusted than social media content in general.

A partnership between Boots and Trinity Mirror highlighted health issues and encouraged social media engagement.
A partnership between Boots and Trinity Mirror highlighted health issues and encouraged social media engagement.

Overall, the research — “Is the medium still the message?,” which comes 50 years after the publication of Marshall McLuhan’s seminal work — emphasises the important role media still play when it comes to delivering messages.

One way for advertisers to ensure they are reaching actual people in a relevant environment is a branded content partnership with a news brand. With this year’s Newsworks Planning Awards launching on September 1, it’s the perfect time to look back at some brilliant examples of native content from last year’s winners:

Boots and Trinity Mirror: In this campaign, Boots teamed up with Trinity Mirror to re-educate the public about the additional services Boots provide and encourage them to “ask a pharmacist.” Articles focused on topical health issues, and a series of Q&A style features highlighted the expertise available at Boots. Additionally, seasonal quizzes and online games rewarded consumers with coupons and Advantage Points for sharing on social media.

The tie-in with Trinity Mirror not only built on the publisher’s long-standing campaigning for the NHS, it also allowed Boots to reach consumers via local and national press and utilise the news brands’ Modal Britain research.

ESI Media gave McArthurGlen a chance to highlight its bargain fashion.
ESI Media gave McArthurGlen a chance to highlight its bargain fashion.

McArthurGlen and ESI Media: For London Fashion Week, McArthurGlen teamed up with official LFW sponsor, ESI Media. With the goal of heightening the retailer’s fashion credentials, the content team replicated five daily looks from the catwalk with products from McArthurGlen outlets.

The activity gained attention by using celebrities, fashion designers, and influencers in around-the-clock live streaming, amplified by promotions in the London Fashion Week special edition of ES Magazine and via social media. This built up to the pinnacle moment of a Facebook Live edition of the Henry Holland show.

By aligning itself with a brand that was not only an official sponsor of London Fashion Week, but is also a stalwart London publication, McArthurGlen achieved an ESI Media first: commercial content with a higher engagement level than editorial content.

Ramblers Worldwide Holidays and The Telegraph: With the goal of building trust with consumers and attracting new users, RWH collaborated with The Telegraph for a year-long partnership across all reader touch points including print, online, tablet, and live events. By building on RWH’s heritage and expert status in the walking domain, the cross-platform campaign delivered a huge increase in leads, saw the brand record its highest ever day of traffic, and hosted one of The Telegraph’s most successful live events.

Not only did all of the above campaigns drive great results for the brands, they reached consumers in a contextually relevant and safe environment — delivering engaging content within the realms of measurable, accountable media.