You say ‘branded content,’ I say ‘advertorial’

Cattle branding (Grabill 1888, cropped)

Photo from John C.H. Grabill, thanks to Wikipedia Commons.

Some of the best thinking about branded content and publishers comes from Frédéric Filloux, who runs digital operations for the French media company Groupe Les Echoes.

In this post “What’s the Fuss about Native Ads?“, I think he makes a valid point: that much of what goes on in business is actually…dare we say it…interesting.

“The big difference between a crude ad and a content-based one is the storytelling dimension,” Filloux writes. “Fact is: Every company has great stories to tell about its products, strategy or vision. And I don’t see why they shouldn’t be told resorting to the same storytelling tools news media use.”

It’s true, yet many companies seem to hide behind some sort of robotic institutional legacy when it comes to telling their stories.

Except not all of them. Yesterday I had an opportunity to submit (if I may say) a darned interesting piece about how television programs are now being massaged, manipulated, refashioned and prepped to live a second life in the video-on-demand space. The client is the company that does the massaging. It’s fascinating stuff, and as Filloux suggests, makes for an honestly good read. But that’s because it’s written as an article/news feature, not a dry “white paper” with stultifying language and footnotes. I think that’s the point he’s making, although it’s bound to stir up resentment from the church-state purists.

On that count, though, Filloux says it’s up to editors to make the ultimate determination of what’s fair game. “Especially in the digital field, editors should be shielded from the business pressure,” he writes. “Editors should be selected by CEOs and appointed by boards or better, boards of trustees. Independence will become increasingly scarce.”