The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released a guide for branded content that includes definition, disclosure, best practices and how to measure a successful campaign.

Branded Content Creation and Distribution Guide” was developed by members of IAB’s Social Media/Native/Content Committee. The guide builds on the IAB Native Advertising Playbook from 2013, factoring in both creation and distribution as it relates to the current advertising landscape.

The guide is extensive, but here are the key marketing takeaways:

An Ad By Any Other Name . . . Is Still An Ad

There is still a great deal of confusion from ad buyers about what constitutes branded content, native advertising or sponsored content. IAB’s guide includes a list of definitions of brand-owned content, publisher-hosted and/or branded sponsored content and branded content distribution, aka native advertising, along with charge metrics.

IAB said that “branded content,” in the context of this guide, is synonymous with “sponsored content” and refers to content that is sponsored by or promoted by a brand that is non-promotional in nature.

Whichever type of branded content a marketer chooses, IAB stresses the importance of clear disclosure.

“Use language that conveys the advertising has been paid for, thus making it an advertising unit, even if that unit does not contain traditional promotional advertising messages,” the guide reads. “Be large and visible enough for a consumer to notice it in the context of a given page and/or relative to the device that the ad is being viewed on.”

Define. Evaluate. Activate.

“Developing and distributing branded content shouldn’t be hard,” wrote IAB committee member and Nativo senior vice president of strategy and operations. “The most important step in the process is defining a clear, creative strategy, including not only the type of content needed to achieve business objectives, but also the most effective means of distribution.”

IAB’s guide breaks down branded content strategy into three steps:

  1. Define your creative strategy and objectives,
  2. Evaluate content solutions, and
  3. Activate your content: disclose, distribute and measure.

The guide breaks this process down, posing questions to marketers about owned media channels and brand content they can repurpose, as well as when to consider the use of influencers.

Measuring Success: The 3 Types Of Engagement

There is no “one size fits all” for what constitutes a campaign’s success, IAB notes, adding that there may be metrics that are important in different circumstances depending on the type of content.

“Measuring the success of branded content marketing campaigns can be complicated given the nuances of various tactics, and also because the strategic objective of branded content initiatives is largely upper funnel related,” notes the guide.

The solution, IAB suggests, is the use of metrics as a denominator. These metrics are needed to present a clear picture of the effectiveness of the native campaign.

In addition to defining the three key industry metrics—awareness, engagement and consideration—IAB breaks down engagement metrics into three categories: cognitive, emotional and behavioral/physical.

Cognitive engagement includes how a consumer thinks about a brand after viewing its sponsored content. This may include brand awareness, brand message recall and a change in purchase intent. Cognitive engagement, the guide states, can be measured with the use of consumer surveys.

Emotional engagement includes how a consumer feels about a brand after viewing its sponsored content. This may include a change in brand perception or brand loyalty or even a physiological response. These responses can be measured with surveys or biometrics, in the case of physiological changes.

Behavioral/physical engagement includes how a consumer acts during and after viewing a brand’s sponsored content. This may include gaze time, click through rates and interaction, or as simple as a follow on social media. These engagements can be measured through eye tracking, web analytics, social analytics and social listening to observe how consumers speak about the brand in an offline setting.

“You may very well want to run a variety of different formats that will reach consumers in different ways for maximum impact,” the guide suggests. “This could include sequential messaging and native ad format sequencing as a tactical strategy that could potentially accelerate the consumer journey and purchase path.”