Digital content creation: Principles for creative best practice

Principle 1. Collaborate: respect the publisher's knowledge of their audience and the brands knowledge of their objectives and values

Principle 2. Ensure the value exchange is proportionate

Principle 3. Think about exactly where and when your content is being consumed; make it fit for purpose

Principle 4. Be transparent, use clear labelling so people know content is advertiser funded

Principle 5. Don't rush the creative process; great content takes time

 

Principle 1. Collaborate: respect the publisher's knowledge of their audience and the brands knowledge of their objectives and values

Laura Dye, Digital Brand Director - Grazia, Bauer Media 

The key to collaboration between publishers and brands is clarity and trust.

Publishers should demonstrate insight around their audiences and advise the brand on the right tone of voice that will best communicate the brand’s values in an engaging and relevant way.

A report by IAB UK reveals 67% of UK adults find ads relevant to their interests more appealing than general ads, aimed at everyone. Publishers and brands need to respect this; the relationship should be authentic, value adding and considered a true extension of the publishers’ content.

Collaboration needs to be direct with good communication, a shared vision and clear understanding of the objectives. This trusted relationship allows publishers to extend the opportunities for brands to reach key audiences whilst ensuring readers have a great experience.

The editorial team and brand need to work together, which builds on trust and the audience’s overall experience. This results in the brand’s messages being subtly weaved in through the unique and credible voice of the premium publisher.

Principle 2. Ensure the value exchange is proportionate

James Murphy, Director / Content Lead, Tan Media

Content marketing is described as:

“…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” CMI 

For this brand content to work, whether it be a long form written article, video or interactive experience and regardless of native execution, it needs a value exchange. 

Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with straight up product-based advertorial, it tends to work best when the consumer feels they are getting some valuable information or entertainment in exchange for being advertised to.

A good example of this is a recent campaign for a lawnmower brand; rather than writing about the specifications of the product, content was produced on how to get the perfect lawn in time for summer. 

To get the balance right, try asking these 2 questions:

- Does the brand have the authority to talk about the subject (yes, a lawnmower brand knows about lawns!)

- Would this content work without the brand support?

If the answer is yes, you’re producing valuable content! 

Principle 3. Think about exactly where and when your content is being consumed; make it fit for purpose

Paul Kasamias, Head of Performance Media, Starcom/Performics

Smartphone and tablet combined represents 75% of digital media time (UKOM Digital Market Overview Q1 2018) so it is essential to make content, and creative, specifically fit for platform: both desktop and mobile.

The mobile screen is smaller therefore mobile creative should be simplified with a single focal point. It should also be succinct in terms of text and have a strong call to action.

Mobile creative is likely to be consumed in a situation where there are distractions, so scrolling speed is between 1-3s across a web page or feed. For this reason, mobile creative should clearly display your brand and communicate the message upfront. A reveal at the end of the creative should be avoided. Studies have shown that more than 30% of brand awareness can be raised when seeing a creative for three seconds or less (Facebook & Nielsen meta-analysis study).


Mobile creative may be consumed whilst in public places, therefore creative should be designed to work on mobile with sound off, unless it is being placed on a sound-on app like a music or radio app.

Principle 4. Be transparent, use clear labelling so people know content is advertiser funded

Richard Castle, Account Services Director, Spark, The Telegraph

There are two reasons to be clear that content has been advertiser-funded. One is legal: the CAP code requires it. If you fail to make it clear the ASA will publicly announce a judgement against your brand and that's not good for your brand's PR image. The other is moral: in a world of fake news and concern about if something is 'right', readers demand not to duped. Get this wrong and consumers will not forgive you easily.
 
Of the two - legal and moral - the moral is the most important. Simply, have the confidence to tell readers up front that the thing they about to read is from your brand. You can use many sorts of label to explain a brand is involved in the content. Be guided by your publisher partner - they will know what's best. Just be clear, consistent and tell people at the point they start to read what's what.

The best reason for labelling content clearly: by telling readers you’re involved with the content (and as long as the content is good content!) you’ll be improving consumers’ understanding of and their desire to buy your product or service.

Principle 5. Don't rush the creative process; great content takes time

Rupesh Limbachia, Creative and Client Services Manager, Flashtalking

Briefs come in and finished designs get sent out all the time, but planning, researching and time management are key to making great content.

Lots of great ideas arise once the work has started, so rushing through a job is never a good trait. Give yourself time to challenge previous drafts where a great finished product could actually be found.

Firstly, referring to client briefs regularly will avoid any slip-ups, or any chance of the wrong message being delivered.

Secondly, communication and collaboration between designers and the client is crucial. Miscommunication could disadvantage your whole project, therefore, set out strong roles in your team to help save time, manage your designs and allow for effective and accurate designs to be sent to your client.

Finally, setting out timescales and goals of when you wish to have certain aspects of the project completed by will allow you to stay on track and be more efficient.

‘If these recommendations are brought to the table from the off, there will be very little room for poor content to be created.’ 

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