5 Key Takeouts: Content and Context

June 20, 2024

In our second session discussing the value of trusted journalism in 2024 in partnership with the Washington Post, World Media Group CEO Jamie Credland chaired a panel with Ebru Ogzuc, Global Head of Brand & Reputation, Vodafone Business, and Natasha Byrne, Managing Partner at UM Worldwide on the subject of Content and Context.

The discussion explored the dynamics between clients, agencies, and media owners when working together to create successful international content partnerships, and how to leverage trusted media brands with the current challenges around misinformation and AI. Here are the key takeouts from the session:

1. The role of media partnerships

For Vodafone Business, global reach and credibility are crucial, which is why partnerships with trusted media brands form a key part of the organisation’s marketing strategy. According to Ebru Ogzuc, they look for partners who can add value through credibility, thought leadership and sustainability initiatives. She quoted recent research, which showed that 61% of those polled consider media partnerships together with thought leadership critical in deciding who to work with, 91% of respondents believing that thought leadership is more influential than traditional product marketing.

Natasha Byrne agreed that international media brands are seen as being more trustworthy. Another benefit for an agency like UM Worldwide is that global publishers are easier to work with across multiple markets, providing scalability and leveraging content production capabilities. She stressed the efficiency gained by partnering with media outlets that have well-established content studios, rather than having the significant expense of creating content from scratch.

2. Balancing editorial and branded content

Much of the discussion centred around finding the right balance between editorially led content and advertorial or branded content. Ogzuc described the need for a delicate combination of editorial content, media reach and high-quality production values. She emphasised the importance of human-centric branded content with a focus on customer outcomes rather than content that simply promotes the brand. Ogzuc said that for Vodafone, content that has been produced by media brand studios has performed better than agency-created content.

Byrne highlighted the complexities that are required for signing off branded content creation. She talked about the importance of upfront clarity with clients about the workload, timelines and the scalability of the content. Byrne says this has been a key element in helping her clients to manage their resources effectively, especially when they have limited media personnel.

3. Differentiation in a saturated market

The panel also tackled the challenge of making media partnerships stand out, particularly when many brands are focusing on similar themes like AI, sustainability and equality. Ogzuc shared Vodafone’s strategy of showcasing its technology in real-world applications. This includes optimising the set-up of Extreme E electric vehicle races in remote locations using Vodafone technology. During the fires in Italy, Vodafone used their mobile network to set up early fire detection systems in Sardinia. Ogzuc explained how this approach not only demonstrates Vodafone’s technology but also engages local communities, making the content more impactful.

To define what makes a brand unique, Byrne suggests conducting audits to identify gaps in the content landscape and leveraging insights from trusted partners like the World Media Group brands. This strategic approach has helped her to identify opportunities for her clients that allows their brand’s strengths to shine without being overshadowed by competitors.

4. Managing complex partnerships

Managing the complexity of large partnerships requires clear communication and defined roles. Byrne highlighted the importance of briefing media partners effectively, establishing clear project timelines, and agreeing on measurement criteria upfront. She discussed UM Worldwide’s ‘Fearless Ideas Forum’, where publishers are briefed simultaneously to brainstorm overarching ideas, ensuring a unified approach across all content. This method streamlines the process and ensures all stakeholders are aligned on goals and success metrics.

Ogzuc added that while direct communication with media partners is essential, agencies play a crucial role in maintaining objectivity and managing the project’s progress. She emphasised the need for agencies to provide hard data and maintain a balance between client needs and media partner capabilities.

5. Measurement and evaluation

As the conversation turned to measurement and evaluation, Byrne explained that the metrics for success vary based on the campaign’s goals, including reach, innovation, brand impact and engagement with the content. She advocated for a uniform measurement framework to ensure consistency across campaigns.

Ogzuc outlined Vodafone’s approach, which includes both qualitative and quantitative research to evaluate brand impact. They use tools such as the Global Web Index and external surveys to provide data-driven insights to their C-suite, ensuring that campaigns are not only impactful but also aligned with the broader business goals.

The panel ended with a reminder of the need for collaboration, clear communication and innovative thinking in building effective media partnerships. Ogzuc stressed the importance of partnering with trusted media brands to maintain brand integrity, especially around sensitive topics like elections and conflict zones. Byrne emphasised that while brands need to be cautious, they should support quality journalism and avoid withdrawing from important conversations. The panel agreed that as the industry navigates the challenges posed by AI and evolving media landscapes, maintaining trust and quality remains paramount.