At News UK, branded social video content is pulling its own weight. The news group has grown a seven-figure incremental revenue stream over the last eight months, thanks to the increasing appetite for campaigns delivered via social video.
Last November, the publisher launched a social video branded content product, Social Studio, for its tabloid title The Sun that sits within its suite of products under its branded content studio, The Bridge. Following that success, it’s offering the same product for its other title, The Times of London under the same Social Studio name.
The product was launched with three goals in mind: To build a sustainable revenue stream, to change the mindset of agencies and clients that the publisher can be agile and to build a product that aligns News UK with a different competitive set, such as social-first publishers like LadBible and Jungle Creations, said Joanna Carrigan, head of commercial content for News UK. The publisher claims a social audience of 2.5 million viewers across The Times and Sunday Times and 18 million across all its titles.
“We have audiences to compete with [social-first publishers],” she said. “We’re also proud of our heritage but we can be agile and evolve, and we have. This gives [Social Studio] a clear identity and lands that message with clients: Come to us if you’ve got a brief for social.”
All branded content briefs come through News UK’s branded content studio The Bridge, which has previously created campaigns that are distributed on social platforms, mostly starting out on its own site before being edited for social. While these campaigns will have the tone of The Times, the execution is different, all publishers now, for instance, have to use programs like Zoom while remote working. News UK wouldn’t share the headcount for The Bridge Studio, but the Social Studio product has one dedicated sales lead. The number of briefs containing Social Studio has grown but the publisher wouldn’t share by how much.
The first campaign from The Times Social Studio features a seven-minute makeup tutorial video where Estée Lauder makeup artist Emma Tillman offers advice via Zoom for Sunday Times’ Style magazine beauty director Sarah Jossel, shopping the brand’s new moisturizer product. The one-off video was first launched on The Sunday Times Style YouTube channel and pushed across its Facebook and Instagram channels. The video had 3,400 YouTube video views at the time of writing. In a good week, The Sunday Times Style YouTube channel reaches between 100,000 and 150,000 video views across all videos, according to SocialBlade analytics.
During the pandemic when marketing budgets have frozen, publishers have experienced an uptick in shorter-form, quickly completed social branded content campaigns, with lower production costs and multimedia flourishes. While quicker to produce, they naturally fetch lower prices tags, typically below $25,000, according to sources. News UK would not say how much it’s charging.
“All client spend is under a microscope,” said Charlotte Taylor, senior group trading director (publishing & audio) at Publicis agency Spark Foundry. “We need to ensure budgets are spent as best they can, [budgets] are all over the place at the moment, clients don’t seem to be looking the long term.”
The goal for Social Studio is a 10-day turnaround from campaign booking to going live, although Estée Lauder took 14 days due to delays caused by remote working. “The shorter the lead time, the better because budgets are so reactive for branded content,” said Taylor, adding News UK’s offer seems a good opportunity for the agency’s clients. “Ten days for sign off approval feels pretty fair.”
“When we have led with Social Studio as a response to a reactive or proactive proposal it’s landed really well with clients,” said Charlie Celino, sales lead for The Times Social Studio. “Across every campaign, it’s led to incremental revenue driven by further distribution, print execution or further existing on our digital platforms. It’s been a real door opener with clients we haven’t worked with in the past.”
Over 50% of the campaigns since launch have been with clients it hasn’t previously worked with. Campaigns that come in just for social video expand into other distribution. As such, it views this revenue stream as incremental to the existing branded content offering. Via The Sun, it’s run 14 videos. Going forward, it has three campaigns booked and two in the pipeline.
“As brands are starting to find their feet again we are seeing confidence return and briefs increasing,” said Carrigan. “The uncertainty absolutely resulted in a couple of months that were difficult across the entire industry, but we’re seeing clients recognizing the importance of continuing to invest in their brand at a time when people need reassurance from the brands they know and trust.”
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