Skip to main content

MBPT Spotlight: Data Finds That Branded Content Pales As a Sales Tool Compared to Earned Media

Native advertising and branded content have become big buzz phrases in the ad marketplace as more and more marketers are opting to pay to have positive articles about their brands written and published or posted online and in print publications.

However, not all consumers are pleased about the practice and many see it as deceitful. In some instances, that could lead to a backlash.

While surveys have shown that consumers do rely heavily on recommendations from online reviews of products when making purchases, most want those reviews to be earned media reviews from independent journalists, experts or neutral bloggers, not from paid shills hired by a brand to write positive stuff.

Brothers Peyman and Pirouz Nilforoush, founders of ad tech company inPowered, believe marketers should promote their brands using expert recommendations, and their service offers a massive database of those types of articles and reviews that have been written about more than 1,000 companies and can be used in online ad campaigns.

inPowered is about a year old but just a few weeks ago, it added a twist to the service: A pop-up question that asks consumers if they would be more likely to buy the brand after reading an article that was selected to be part of a client’s ad. This allows the company to rate the articles for each brand so that their clients know which ones are more effective in motivating consumer purchases and best to be used in their campaigns.

“Our service turns the most read and most influential real product reviews into ads and drives consumers to those ads,” Pirouz Nilforoush says. “You can put a brand into our site and search our database and find every story written about that brand in the past 30 days. It also shows how many people saw the story and how many people read it.”

The service peruses some 700,000 stories per day, sorts them and puts them into the database. A client can then search the database, select an earned media story or legit brand review for the campaign. A banner ad is then created and inPowered, using exchanges or direct buying from publishers, places the ad on different sites based on whom the brand is looking to target. When a consumer clicks on the ad, it takes them to the product review or article. After they read it, the pop-up question asks them if they would be likely to buy the product after reading the article. That data is collected and the client can see responses in real time using the inPowered “dashboard.”

The company did a beta study for Honeywell in which it compared sponsored content for the brand vs. independently written reviews and articles, or earned media, asking consumers how likely they would be to buy after reading different articles—some paid content and others earned media. The highest percentage of consumers saying they would be likely to buy was for an earned media article—56%. The lowest percentage of consumers likely to buy after reading an earned media article was 36%. The highest percentage of consumers who said they would be likely to buy after reading an article paid for by Honeywell was 17%.

Nilforoush says simple click-throughs, which many marketers use to measure the effectiveness of online advertising, “tells you nothing about intent to buy a product.” And as far as native advertising or branded content go, Nilforoush says, those forms of marketing lack credibility in the minds of consumers.

Nilforoush says during the three months of beta testing with Honeywell, inPowered found that independently written expert content is at least twice as impactful at driving purchase consideration than sponsored posts. People spend an average of 90 seconds reading expert reviews and independently written content, he says. And the response rate for readers of the articles answering the question was close to 20%, which Nilforoush says is four times the industry average for other feedback measurement tools.

inPowered now has more than 30 clients; in addition to Honeywell that includes major brands such as Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, Chevrolet, LG, Lenovo, Jeep, AT&T and Verizon.