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In this episode, Melanie Deziel and Jeff Julian discuss the research provided by Pressboard to expose more information about brand mentions in native advertising.


Melanie Deziel: Welcome to the first show of the Explicit Content Podcast focus on native advertising. I'm going to be your host for these segments Melanie Deziel, and I'm here with Jeff Julian. Hey Jeff, how are you?

Jeff Julian: Hey I'm doing well. And you're in New York, New Jersey right?

Melanie Deziel: I am. I'm based in Jersey City right across the river, so I get that Brooklyn commute with the jersey prices, you really can't beat it.

Jeff Julian: Exactly, let's go ahead and get started here. I'd love to hear your definition for the audience of what native advertising is, and kind of how branded content fits into that realm.

Melanie Deziel: It's a really important question, because I think just about everyone I talk to has their own definition of it, and that's not particularly useful for industry wide conversations. But in its broadest form native advertising is any form of advertising that takes the form and function of the place where it lives. So most of our experiences of advertising it's disruptive or it's interrupting us, or it's set off in sort of separate real estate like a banner on a website. But when we talk about native advertising, it's really showing up just like the expected experience and the expected content in that environment. So when we're talking about an app, it might be whatever the app content normally is. It's something that mirrors that. When we're talking about Facebook, it's a post that takes the form of any other post in your feed.

But when we're talking about publishers, when publishers like a magazine, a website, a newspaper are creating native advertising, what's native in that environment is content. So it's an article, or a video, or a review of some kind. A piece of native advertising in that environment would be a piece of content that takes that exact same form, so that's where the confusion between branded content and native advertising comes in. Is that if you're a publisher then what's native to you is branded content. But in some other context native advertising can definitely have a broader definition.

Jeff Julian: Yeah, and it leaves it all up to the reader the consumer's definition of what is native to them, just because it's a magazine and it could be completely different to that person because it is such a tight knit niche community that it might set off those little flares that says this is an advertisement if not really well.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, absolutely. And the truth is I think a lot of people might think that the goal with native advertising is to kind of trick someone, to have them think that it's editorial. But in truth that's really not the goal at all. I mean if an advertiser is paying for content or any kind of advertisement, they get nothing from an experience where the reader or the viewer doesn't understand the brand role in what they're doing. It's not that we're trying to trick people, it's that we're trying to give them something that matches their expectations.

And when they're going to their favorite website, or their favorite magazine, or favor newspaper they're expecting content. Things that entertain them and inform them, make their lives easier and otherwise meet their expectations of that publisher, and that's why native advertising in that context has to be content that lives up to that same reputation, and lives up to those standards.

Jeff Julian: Yeah and that drives home the conversation or the hypothesis we're going to be talking about today. And that is this idea that how many mentions of the brand will make it to where it starts to lose that nativeness to the content, and feels more like an advertisement, versus it's truly native content the brand is acknowledge, there's awareness that is given to the audience, but they still continue with it because it is providing value.

Melanie Deziel: Exactly, yeah. And it's such a fine line, it's not an exact science for most of us. We're talking about that fine line between how much branding is too much, and that's really difficult when branding can take so many forms. Like you mentioned it's the number of times you mention the brand, but it's also where you mention the brand, it's the way in which you mention the brand, it's the places where that brand lives within the content experience. There's so many different ways the brand can play a role in that content, that kind of nailing down the sweet spot has proven to be really difficult, and for the most part at least in my experience and on many of the programs I've worked on, a lot of it is just your gut as a creator, or a producer or a writer. You're just kind of trusting your gut that this thing that doesn't feel icky to me, this feels like the right amount.

Jeff Julian: Yeah, exactly. So why don't you set up this research that was done and let us in to the value that it adds.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, absolutely. I was super excited earlier this year a company called Pressboard actually came out with a study on exactly what we're talking about. So they looked at more than 300 pieces of branded content and did an analysis, to try to determine when and how much to mention a brand, and see how all of that impacts the performance of that content piece. What impact does it have on the way consumers experience that content. And I was so excited to see this study. Before I even opened it, just to see that someone was finally studying this, and hopefully going to give us some data to back up our gut.

Jeff Julian: Yeah, and it gives us that middle eyesight that you usually don't get as a publisher or an advertiser of how people are consuming the piece of content. If you go to Facebook throw a video out there, it counts as a view if somebody scrolls by it and it just happens to take them three seconds. That doesn't give us anything, but I love that they went to scroll depth and the amount of brand mentions, and the different types of content to really drive in the analysis of this content.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, definitely. It's a little bit more qualitative. Now it's certainly quantitative in terms of as we're going to dig into, they're giving us like you said scroll dept, the exact seconds and scroll rates and all of that. But it does kind of help us get to that qualitative question of how much is too much and how much is just enough. So one of the first things that they talked about is whether we should mention the brand at all.

Jerrid Grimm: I'm Jerrid Grimm co-founder of Pressboard. Pressboard is a marketplace that helps brands do content with major media publishers. So we have this hypothesis going in that if you mention the brand early and if you mentioned it a lot, it would have a detrimental effect on readership, time spent and scrolling behavior. That's what our hypothesis was. What we didn't expect was that if the brand was mentioned versus not mentioned, that it could possibly have a positive effect. That wasn't in our hypothesis. We thought all brand mentions would be detrimental, even if they were small, we just didn't know [inaudible 00: 06: 41] they would be.

But then we had ... So what we did was we separately started digging into the science of storytelling. And what we found out there was that, the insight is that the brand if they're brought in later, they may become a supporting character. And supporting characters can make a story more powerful. So what we learnt was that the brand shouldn't be the hero of the story, but they can be a great supporting character, and supporting characters can be antagonist even. All they do is create obstacles for the protagonist. And the obstacles you can do that in a positive light.

Melanie Deziel: And this is kind of a controversial thing, there are some creators who feel like we shouldn't talk about the brand. The brand doesn't have a place in the content. Now I'm not in that camp, and so I was excited to see that the study actually backed this up. So what they looked at was the difference in placement, in performance between content that included a mention of the brand, and content that didn't mention the brand at all. And what they found is that according to the study, "Sponsored articles without any brand mentions performed well, with an average active reading time of 63.5 seconds, and a scroll rate of 77.9. But they still failed to outpace content with one brand mention." So that might be the opposite of what some people expect. But actually if you mention the brand, it seems to perform better than not mentioning the brand at all.

Jeff Julian: Yeah and that was one of the unique eye opening areas of you think people would say, well zero mentions would be the best result. And that any time a brand was mentioned it would automatically start to pull some people away, but that's not what they found.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah and for me I think it's good, because what that does is it puts pressure on a brand to realize that you are going to be associated with what you're creating. You're playing a role here, and not only are you playing a role but you have a role to play. There's something important about you being there, it actually helps the performance. But it does put pressure on you to figure out well how exactly do we do that, or where do we do that. And luckily the study dug into some of that as well.

Jerrid Grimm: I think that in the first hundred words you're setting the premise of whatever the story is. And the premise isn't the brands. So the advertiser isn't the premise of the story. The brand is there to provide this story, or this advice, or entertainment, and it's not the brand's place to be in that area of it. One separate thing to note is that this didn't include disclosure. So disclosure was always ... The brand was always mentioned initially, but it was a "presented by" or "advertised by". What we were looking at was once you got into the story where the brand was mentioned.

Yeah, so I think what we learned was any story whether it's entertaining, whether it's educational, whether it's informative. The first hundred words are used to draw the reader in, and then you want them to spend time with it. And often the brand isn't needed at that point of that story.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah it was awesome getting to talk to Jerrid from Pressboard and hear his thoughts, because like I said so many of us who are on the creator side, we work with brands, we have these brainstorms, we have these back and forth conversations, and to be able to back this stuff up with data is so important, because it's very easy to dismiss otherwise.

Jeff Julian: So what was next, what was the second big takeaway from this research that you found as a practitioner?

Melanie Deziel: The other thing that I took away that was huge for me is they talked about how many times to mention the brand, because obviously now we already know that, yes you should mention the brand somewhere. But then the question becomes like okay well once or more than once? Is there diminishing return here? So what they found which doesn't surprise me is that obviously the more times a brand name appears, it kind of negatively affects the time that readers spend engaging with it. We hit that point where we're like, "Alright, I get it. This is just an ad." What they found is both read time and scroll depth were impacted by that. From a read time perspective, as soon as a second brand mention occurs. So after that original one that we already know is going to help, the read time actually dropped. And as more brand mentions were added, the read time continued to drop.

So each time we're encountering another brand mention, up to three, four, five brand mentions we're just seeing that read time tank. And I don't think actually that's too surprising, I think that fits with my gut. Like the more times you mention a brand the less as a consumer you feel like there's something of value for you there.

Jeff Julian: Yeah, exactly. And I wonder if replacing the brand name with the word "they" or something along those lines, would allow for the positioning the brand as this supporting role, which Jerrid talks about a lot. And this idea of a guide instead of the hero. But just getting the name out once, and then leaving it leaving it there could help us in so many other areas where we're creating content. Whether it's keyword manipulation for a CEO, or just ... Overall just writing content about a person, mentioning them over and over and over again, it just sets off this weird trigger in our brains that says, "Something's not right here."

Melanie Deziel: Well nobody likes to be sold. I don't think anyone wakes up in the morning and is like, "I can't wait to watch some ads today." Except for those few tortured souls in the industry who actually look forward to these kinds of things. The average consumer doesn't wake up and say they want to get sold. So it's not too surprising to me that if a reader starts to get the sense, like this is all about the brand, that they're going to stop feeling like there's any reason for them to continue. And I think the read time shows that, but they also found similar patterns in scroll depth, that the further you scroll if you start to see brand mentions, basically you stop scrolling. So that obviously is part and parcel with read time. Obviously if you're not scrolling you're not reading. But I think it's just kind of adding to that conclusion that you only have so long to catch a reader's attention, and if you show them trusting you is a bad idea, they get partway into this article and they can see that it's all about you. Then it's not going to take much effort for them to bounce away. There's too many other things competing for their attention.

Jeff Julian: I wonder how this research now that it's out there ... It sounds like something they're going to update. How many more places we can pull this idea of brand mentions and the frequency with different forms of content like a podcast, like video, television? There are so many places where we try to get information out there to capture the audience's attention, and we could be losing it just because we're accidentally putting in different mentions, or where somebody says, "Hey, you need to put these words in a few more times, or you need to mention us a few more times," because it gives them that good feeling, they go home and say I'm superior or whatever it is. Because that's killing the content.

Melanie Deziel: Exactly. It's like at a certain point it stops being in service of your reader or your listener at all. I just had an experience like this earlier today. I often listen to podcasts when I hop in the shower. I feel like okay I'm learning and I'm doing something productive. I popped on a podcast just like through all my queue, and the first five full minutes, like so much time that I actually stopped and checked. The first five full minutes were various sponsor readouts, and sort of welcome fluff and the intro music. And I'm like how my five minutes, I've made a five minute commitment to this already and I've still not gotten anything for me as a listener. Like I felt a little deceived, and I think in so many places when we're creating content as marketers, we almost do the same thing to our audience. We forget that there is some sort of implicit contract with them in providing them something, and by them making a commitment to listen, or download, or read, or whatever it is. They're giving us a gift of their time, and it's on us to make that worth their while.

Jeff Julian: Oh yeah, the best example of this is when you sit through a sponsored content session at an event. And the first thing they do is like load up who they are, what their company does, and all the stuff. And 10 minutes into it you haven't got a single piece of content that's valuable to you. All you know is that you've been pitched to and you're ready to walk away, but that embarrassment and shame of getting up during the event is the only thing that keeps you there. But with the future, with content being on mobile devices and being in control of the reader for consumption, they don't have that fear or that embarrassment.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah it's almost like if you think about your content if it were in that real time context. If you were on a stage reading this article or playing this podcast, what's the point where you think people are going to get up and walk out. And I think it's so easy for us to forget that this is a human interaction at the base level when we're providing content to our audience, but they are. In their own way they're getting up and walking out of our session at a conference. Just that happens to be an article, or a video, or a podcast. So maybe thinking about it that way, as if you're looking your audience in the eye. How good are you going to feel, if you have to present all that stuff up front, if you're front loading the branding in that way?

Jeff Julian: And so let's go on to the next one. What was that third key takeaway?

Melanie Deziel: Yeah the third thing that I thought was super cool, and it kind of play into what we were just talking about. You said your conference threshold is like 10 minutes, you're like where's the value for me? Apparently my podcast threshold is about five minutes. So that was a question they looked at in this study too. Pressboard was trying to figure out, when do you mention the brand. Because we just talked about front loading it. Our gut probably tells us that that's not a great idea, but what they found in the study is, if the brand is mentioned too close to the start of the sponsor article, the engagement levels aren't negatively affected. So an average readers spend 12 seconds longer reading articles when the brand was halfway through the article versus when it's in the first hundred words.

It's pretty substantial. If we're talking about the average view time of an article being somewhere between under a minute and over a minute, that's pretty substantial for us. So the difference between someone getting halfway through your piece of content and barely getting through the first hundred words. So at least we know now as like a hard and fast rule, those first hundred minutes or first hundred words, those are sacred. Just like the first few minutes of that podcast you want to get right into the good stuff, just like the first few minutes of this conference you want to drop some value. It seems like one of the things they uncovered is that those first hundred words are sacred and the brand needs to steer clear.

Jeff Julian: I wonder if that's because so many people have been changing their content to put like a summary up at the beginning. Like here's what you'll take away from this continent if you finish reading. The idea of we're doing this pitch up front and then the continent as we go, and if you see that in the pitch, the brand name, that we're automatically assuming, I'm being sold."

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, and I don't even know if some of it is a summary necessarily, but I think ... and I've had this experience. I used to work at the New York Times and T Brand Studio, where we did sponsored content for brands to live on the New York Times website all the time. And one of the things they'd want to push for is that branding in the top, and I wish we had this study then. We were just talking about our gut. But I said it's almost like walking up to someone, and before you've even said hi, handing them your business card. That's the content equivalent of accepting someone's request on LinkedIn, and you immediately get a pitch for something totally irrelevant to your business. It's like you've got to build a relationship first, you've got to build some trust. Nobody wants that right off the bat. You've got to show them there's some reason to stay. Or our conference analogy again, that there's some reason to stay in the room, that there's value coming for them.

And if the piece of content starts off by, "There's more than 40 varieties of our product that you can use to solve this problem." It's like well, I mean now you're just telling me about yourself. You're not talking to me, you're not repeating my struggles back to me. You've made no promise of value that I'm going to get by staying here and dedicating my time to finishing this content you've created.

Jeff Julian: Exactly, I love. I think it's just so key that we learn some of these techniques about the ways we mention our brand, because even our content on our websites that it shouldn't be about selling us, it should be about presenting value. So even it is native content that has to be considered advertorial in some sense. And so if we keep mentioning, "We're the best," upfront and all this other stuff, using this, "The greatest company in the whole wide world." That that's setting our customers off immediately. So there's so much goodness and takeaways from this research that you found.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, for sure. And I find that so often when I'm working with clients consulting or having the strategic conversations with brands who are starting a content program, one of the things I try to do often is use the analogy of an in person interaction. I feel like we get so wrapped up in the strategy, or like you said sort of loading in SEO terms or something like that, that we forget that this is like, you're delivering something to a human, and that human behaves like a human. And it's like, the sample I give too is, if you walk straight into a bar, and you just are asking people to go home with you, it's not going to go over super well, you're probably going to get slapped. The whole point is you go in, you buy someone a drink, you talk to them for a while, you spend some time, you listen, you build a relations. It's much easier to make an ask of any kind after you've built some rapport. And so in many ways your content needs to do that too.

If you start those first hundred words with a bunch of brand mentions, you've not provided any value. You're proposing to people before you've even talked to them at all.

Jeff Julian: Yeah. And this goes into this idea that people are buying with their own research now, and they're buying ... In 2020 Gartner says it'll be 80% of the sales process will be done without a sales person involved. And so that goes with advertisements too. That goes with everything that has to do with selling a product. And so you have to get into that supporting role that Jerrid talks about. That idea that you're a guide, your map along this journey that this person's having in their own story, and providing value as that guide, it gives you the upper hand compared to other brands. But you can't just jump in when they're at the 40% mark and try to close the deal.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, absolutely not. I think one of the things I'm excited about, and I talked about this with Jerrid a little bit. Is this study does a good job of telling us what not to do. Don't put it in the first hundred words, don't ignore the brand completely, don't have too many brand mentions. But it doesn't hit too much on what we should do. It's really tough to know what to do right. We're slowly learning these things we shouldn't do. The only sort of prescriptive thing that it did give us is around that idea of when do we mention a brand. They seem to define a sweet spot as the 300 to 600 word range. So we're talking about the latter half basically of the articles, given the average length of what they looked at.

So we know that the brand should have that supporting role later, but I'm excited to see in some of the research that they and others come out with, more of what we should be doing. Because hopefully we don't have to live through this industry by trial and error. We've done that a lot in the last couple years, it's a hard way to learn, it's an expensive way to learn. And so I'm psyched to see more research coming out. Hopefully in the next few months, from a number of people about what is working, not just what doesn't work.

Jeff Julian: Things like these anti-patterns are great for some of the content marketing software that we have. That we can run it through an analysis, and say, "Where are my grammar errors? Where's the pull aways? And then where am I doing these things incorrectly that the industry says is probably the norm? But yeah, like you said there needs to be more positive like, "Hey, we know that this is a good approach for today, so maybe you should take this on when you're thinking or creating your content."

Melanie Deziel: Yeah and I think the other thing to be aware of too and I know this isn't always the most helpful piece of advice, but all of this stuff it depends. This is what they found based on their analysis, but every piece of content is unique or it should be. If it's not, you've got a much bigger issue to deal with. But every piece of content is unique, it's in a different context. It's for a different audience, it's written by a different person in a different voice with a different perspective. And so I hope that these things will give us some guidance, but I also don't ... I don't want it to be the kind of thing holds back creativity. Because truly when it comes to this content, that you're putting in a different context, trying to appeal to an audience, and get your message in at the same time, it's already a lot to be juggling. And so I don't want people to see this kind of research and feel like everything is a hard and fast rule always.

And I don't use that as permission to go filling your hundred words, your first hundred words with 15 brand mentions. But just acknowledging that there may be some instances where that works better.

Jeff Julian: We have no idea what print looks like, because we can't capture the scroll depth on a printed article. We have no idea what an image with the brand, like if you had a McDonald's employee in the image or the header, is that the same as a hundred mention? We have no idea. But we can just trust the gut, and we can also use groups of people who fit our persona to test it. There's nothing wrong with testing your content before you release it.

Melanie Deziel: It's one of the things that comes up a lot, measuring content. And I think that's probably a whole other episode where will talk about how do you measure the efficiency and the effectiveness of some of these programs that live on someone else's site, if you're working with a brand publisher. Your brand working with a publisher rather. So I mean we could definitely dig into that, but yeah it's definitely a question of figuring out how do you measure all these variables? How do you know how any of these things impact your KPIs at the end of the day.

Jeff Julian: Absolutely. Me and Joe Cox, one of the other hosts were talking about this yesterday. The year 2020 is the year of ROI. And so we were going to be tasked as marketing teams, because the sales teams, the efficiency and effectiveness will be down by then, to give ROI on the content we're creating, because we will be that integral part of the system, of getting the attention of customers and existing and future customers. And so all this stuff gives us the ability to start calculating that return. And as long as we're doing our work upfront to see what the investment amount is, and the effectiveness of it, then we'll be ready by 2020.

Melanie Deziel: It's so funny, I feel like for so long 2020 was this far off date. This date by which promises were made. By 2020 this will happen, and now it's so close. The onus is really on us to step up, it's coming soon.

Jeff Julian: Oh I know man. A couple of weeks ago we were in LA and we saw the back to the future car, and the future date is in the past and that's just trippy.

Melanie Deziel: It's wild.

Jeff Julian: Because we're not flying around right? But we do have this over use of technology and data to help us make conclusions on things that we just can't conclude, because our content is consumed in non technical ways.

Melanie Deziel: It's true. And it's also ... it's such a balance between art and science. And I think that's why it's fairly easy for us to come out with a study where we can talk about things like scroll depth, or average engaged reading time. But how do you measure things like resonance, or memory? That's when those focus groups and some of the brand lives studies, and some of those other things come into play to try to figure out, well there's also, there's other values here beyond just a number that's ticking up or down depending on how long someone spends on a page. What do they feel when they're reading this? Do they tell someone about it afterward? All that stuff has value too, it's just a lot harder to measure.

Jeff Julian: Yeah, oh yeah. I had this unique experience today. I hate LinkedIn sells, I hate that idea of connecting with somebody and then selling them immediately. And usually it pisses me off where I'll publicly shame the person or I just immediately disconnect. And I had somebody connect with me and say in their pitch, "Hey, we provide health insurance options that are non-ACA and for small business owners ..." and that shit. And I'm like damn it, I need somebody who does that, and I've got to say, "Give me more information." It's like, "I don't want to say yes, but I actually can't find anybody who fits this, so I'll say yes." And man, I felt so creepy doing it. But when it works it works you never know.

Melanie Deziel: I have a lot of marketers guilt when I accidentally click an ad, or that experience. Where you like, "I didn't mean to give you the impression that that was good, I'm so sorry."

Jeff Julian: Sometimes you're like, "Amazon why do you keep buying your name as the ad? I'd click that ad, just because when I search you on Google, instead of putting dot com at the end of your name, it's your fault for buying the ad.

Melanie Deziel: So true.

Jeff Julian: We want to thank Rev.com for being a sponsor of the show, and helping us bring transcripts and captions to the Enterprise Marketer and Explicit Content Podcast shows. For more information about Rev and to get 10% off your first order visit emktr.co/rev.

Let's move on to this uncensored thought, kind of the wrap up, the little segment for you and what you're thinking about native native advertising.

Melanie Deziel: So one of the things I just want to like lay out flat because I'm hoping we're going to be here having conversations for a while, I want to set the record straight. So as a former journalist I have had a lot of skeptical encounters with people who feel like native ad content is deceptive, or that it's an ethical breach that the goal like we said earlier is to trick people, or deceive them, or have them think that the content we create is editorial. And it's never made any sense to me, it's so bonkers to think that way. Anyone who's ever worked with a brand, you know that marketing efforts are so carefully measured, they're so optimized. We just don't spend on things that don't work for a consistent time.

So why would a brand spend so much time and their money and their effort to create a piece of content, or content campaign with the goal of nobody knowing what they did? What's in it for the brand if the readers don't know that they're associated with that content. It's nothing, it's literally nothing. They have nothing to gain from creating that, they're not just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts to create something beautiful. So the whole point of branded content is for brands to deliver something of value to an audience, in the hopes of driving up that awareness, the engagement with consumers, conversion of some kind. And if that doesn't happen because there's no branding, then there's really no point. From my standpoint it is really in the brands best interest to have clear labeling and not the inverse.

For the publisher that's hosting this native ad content, same thing. Their trust with their readers is on the line, so they definitely benefit from pushing and insisting on clear branding and disclosure. And then obviously at the end of the day, it's in the best interest of our readers and our customers to understand that a brand had involvement in the origins of our content. My hope for this uncensored thought is that I think we should put this to bed, that this idea of brands wanting to create secretive, deceptive sponsored content. Especially now that we have data to finally back it up, that mentioning the brand will actually help it do better.

Jeff Julian: I completely agree. It's so baffling why you would ever do anything as a marketer out of the goodness of your heart, because it's money your company could spend ... Companies spend money not just for fun things, not to help the industry. They spend money to grow, and to help their investors, and help their employees. It baffles me why people are trying to be deceptive about how they hide their branding.

Melanie Deziel: I just don't even think that people are really trying to do it. I don't ... I've never encountered a brand who's like, "Please hide our brand, please make sure nobody knows it's us." There are certainly some really tricky industry behaviors out there when it comes to click bait, or putting the X on an ad so small that you accidentally click it. Like some of that stuff, absolutely, gaming the system. But for the most part, if you're going to invest the time that it takes ... I mean most of these sponsored content programs, they take weeks to create and get through approvals. You're not gonna spend weeks to do something that you hope is going to momentarily trick someone. It's not how it works, it's not worth the time and effort.

Jeff Julian: No it's like Baby Center by Johnson and Johnson right? They never mention it's Johnson and Johnson's Baby Center, it's just baby center. And I'm with Joe Polizzi on this. I have no idea why they would do that, even if the data was wonderful to see what people were searching for, to see what products would work, to get research out of like watching in this thing without ever ... People would love to see that this is from a Johnson and Johnson thing. It wouldn't affect them at all knowing that this company that they trust with putting chemicals on their baby was a part of this right?

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, and it's interesting, I don't have the data in front of me, but most of the data does show that when a consumer is aware that a brand has provided content or had some role in content, and that content provides value to them. Like they perceive it to be useful, interesting, entertaining, that they actually don't mind. In this case that's certainly the case. This content is obviously performing well, they've continued to invest in the site even with no branding, so I don't think they have much to lose by putting the branding there. What I will say is ... I think what's confusing about it is that they've probably created a media property and are profiting off of it just the way that any media property would, selling ads and sort of operating it that way. So maybe they're content to keep it as is and use it as that kind of channel.

Jeff Julian: It's like if there was a data ethical group that had a website and it was presented by Facebook. And if you put the Facebook on the front of it people might not come, but if you don't mention Facebook in there then they're really going to get pissed off, then you're a part of that.

Melanie Deziel: Oh yeah that deception, nobody wants to be deceived. It's definitely not something you want to do. When I look back at the study talking about the brand coming in the second half, it does speak to again these qualitative questions that are left open about, you want to make sure your consumers are pleasantly surprised to see that you're involved with this content and not deceived. If it was like you said something that is the complete antithesis of your brand, that it's against everything you stand for, or that it's ... You've just gotten in trouble for an oil spill and you're creating some feel good content about fracking being good for the environment or something. Like it's going to create this cognitive dissonance with your audience.

But if you're creating content that's actually within your area of expertise, then it shouldn't come as a surprise that you've played some role in that. It should make sense to people, and if that's the case they won't be upset.

Jeff Julian: Exactly. Well this has been an awesome, great first show. I'm excited to continue these conversations. I think there's been a gap, and this is why I've been pushing you for probably years now to get on the show and start putting this content out.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a lot of room for conversation around native advertising. I'm happy to help carry the torch and I hope we hear from folks about things they want to hear about.

Jeff Julian: And even though it's not in the first hundred words, I want you to mention some of the changes that happened in your company, and kind of how people can get more information about what's going on at StoryFuel.

Melanie Deziel: Fair enough. Hopefully we've provided enough value that this doesn't come as deception right? As a disappointment. So yeah I started my own consulting firm, and started my speaking business about almost three years ago. My primary mission since I left the publishing world, where I was working in these contests studios, and helping teach brands how to create content that lived on our properties. My mission has been to take that knowledge and share it with brands in a broader sense. So now through StoryFuel we work with publishers who are creating or optimizing their content studios, helping them to smooth their operations, fix their packaging and pricing, and create better brand stories. And we also work directly with brands who are trying to do the same thing. To figure out a brand storytelling strategy, to identify potential native ad partners, and to set up a brand news room of their own, so that they can get out there and tell their own brand story better.

Jeff Julian: Awesome. I think it's such a need in this industry, because so many people are doing it, but they're doing it so quietly. No one knows how to find ... I don't know how to find you, I don't know how to get stuff with you, because there isn't like an ecosystem for this. And so it's either straight ads into social media, or you're off on your own trying to figure out this stuff.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, definitely. And it's so tough to figure this stuff out. I mean publishers struggle with their own business model all the time. So if you're trying to figure out how to operationalize that, and make it part of a profit center for you as a company, it's understandable if that would be difficult. The thing that I always say is, there's no shame in asking for help when it comes to these things. It's the same reason that we turn to brands when we need a product, or a service, or a process. Because we trust that they know how to do it, and they're going to save us the effort of learning the hard way.

So hopefully for those brands who are feeling the same thing about storytelling, they don't know where to start, they don't know what to do. You can turn to experts like me and some of the others out there who can help you figure this stuff out, and save you from learning the hard way.

Jeff Julian: Yeah, and we want somebody on the outside. We don't want somebody on the inside of either side, because we feel like then we're getting gamed. We definitely want someone like you who's been in both environments consulting with brands, and then also working in journalism and in brand studios, to help us guide this path.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, it's been wild to see it from all those different angles, and to try to bring those lessons into one central place.

Jeff Julian: Awesome. Well I can't wait to get to the next episode, but thank you for kicking this off. And thank you guys for listening. We hope you give us your questions and tell us what's going on Twitter. Just hash tag, we can use ECP for Explicit Content Podcast, or go ahead and fill it out, or @enterprisemarketer. Or ask Melanie or me. Just find us and give us your thoughts and insights. But we can't wait to talk to you next time, and so we'll see you later.

Melanie Deziel: Bye guys.

Jeff Julian: Thank you for listening to the Explicit Content Podcast. For more information check out enterprisemarketer.com.

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