Survey shows content-led marketing budgets expected to rise in 2022

March 1, 2022

82% of respondents choose to amplify content through trusted digital media channels 

The World Media Group, a strategic alliance of the world’s leading media brands, today released its annual content report: Global Content Marketing Futures. The survey, which questioned key influencers across advertisers, agencies, media brands and consultancies, focused on budgets and implementation strategies as the world emerges from the impacts of the pandemic.

Trusted digital media and paid social top platforms for amplifying content

According to the survey, the most popular platforms for amplifying content campaigns last year were trusted digital media and paid social channels, each earning votes from 82% of our respondents. Future spending, particularly across these platforms looks positive. Content-led marketing budgets are expected to rise over the next 12 months with the majority of advertisers expecting to increase their investment in paid social (47%), followed by trusted digital media channels (38%). One hundred percent of advertisers said they expect to maintain or increase their investment in trusted digital media channels in the year ahead.

The open programmatic marketplace is currently the least popular platform for amplifying content with just 24% of respondents using it, although 26% of advertisers plan to increase investment in the year ahead.

Context is still key in ‘always on’ world

The majority of advertisers (62%) believe it’s important to be ‘always on’ for their customers. The favoured strategy is to use brand storytelling to build long-term engagement with audiences, so that when the time comes for decision-making, their brand is front of mind. Fifty-six percent of advertisers said they’d implemented this approach.

There’s still a clear belief, however, that context it is important for providing the right engagement and impact for brand storytelling, with advertisers rating this at 8.8 out of 10 on a sliding scale of importance, and agencies, media owners and consultants rating it at 8.9.

“After a challenging couple of years for the industry, it’s encouraging to see advertisers choosing to increase their investment in content-led marketing, particularly across trusted digital media brands,” said Belinda Barker, Chief Executive of the World Media Group. “It is testament to the fact that, even in the ‘always on’ world, cut-through and engagement for brand storytelling can only be achieved in the right context.”

What’s a content-led campaign best for?

Whilst the majority of advertisers (41%) believe that the content-led approach is best for building brand engagement, most of our agency leaders (37%) believe that it can be best for changing brand perceptions. A small majority of media owners (33%) believe that advertisers can use the content-led approach to demonstrate thought leadership, but 31% also believe it is best for brand engagement.

What are the best KPIs for measuring content?

Given that advertisers believe that the content-led approach is best for brand engagement, it’s not surprising that time spent with the content was a main KPI for the most number (23%) of advertisers. It’s interesting to see that a shift in brand perceptions is considered a main KPI by the same number of advertisers, even though they didn’t rate that as an advantage of the content-led approach. The shift in brand perceptions was the main KPI cited by the most agencies (43%) and media owners (34%).

Creative’s next big thing

When asked to predict the most engaging creative approaches moving forward, there was consensus that success was less about specific formats, and more about concept and context, or leveraging existing formats in a new and distinctive way. That said, audio and podcasts featured strongly – notably more than AR and VR which, compared to our previous surveys, suggests a reversal of opinion. Respondents also expressed concerns about an over-cluttered branded content environment, with many respondents referencing the need for closer integration with editorial content.

New talent looks positive

Also looking to the future, respondents were asked how confident they were in the pipeline of creative and talented rising stars joining the international marketing, advertising and media sector. Sixty-six percent of respondents were quite or very confident that the creative and innovative future for international, content-led marketing was safe in the hands of the new talent entering the industry.

The research was carried out by the World Media Group, whose members include The Atlantic, BBC Global News, Bloomberg Media Group, Business Insider, The Economist, The Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune, National Geographic, The New York Times Company, Politico Europe, Reuters, Smithsonian, TIME, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, and partner: Permutive, to provide context for the World Media Awards for cross-border, cross-channel content campaigns, which close for entry on 12th May 2022. The full report can be downloaded here.

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About the Survey

The World Media Group carried out the survey between 5th January and 9th  February 2022.  Responses were encouraged through emails and social media outreach to our global contacts.  We received a total of 262 responses: 21% of responses were from brand advertisers, 38% were from agencies, 27% from media brands, and 14% were from other types of organisations, such as consultancies working with clients on international content marketing.  Our respondents represented a breadth of business sectors and were responsible for making decisions for marketing campaigns all around the world.

About The World Media Group

The World Media Group is an alliance of leading international media organisations that connect brands with highly influential audiences in the context of trusted and renowned journalism.  Our members share the same values and principles, and we promote their many synergies whilst championing the role of trusted international media.

About The World Media Awards

Organised by the World Media Group, the World Media Awards celebrate the creativity and effectiveness of cross-platform, cross-border content-driven advertising.  With an independent jury of international brand and agency leaders and content publishers, the Awards are recognised by the WARC Media 100.  Our co-Chairs for the 2022 Awards are Hamish Goulding, Head of Global Brand Strategy for HSBC, and Ritu Lakhanpal, Managing Partner for IPG Media Brands.