ANA: Content marketing budgets jumped before pandemic

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Marketers boosted their spending on content marketing in 2019 by an average of 73% over two years, per a survey by the Association of National Advertisers and The Content Council, before the coronavirus pandemic restrained ad spending. They forecast that spending on content marketing would grow by 42% in the following two-year period, per an announcement shared with Marketing Dive.
  • The percentage of advertisers expressing a “strong commitment” to content marketing doubled to 52% from 26% two years earlier. Survey respondents on average put 18% of their total marketing budgets into content marketing, which the study defined as creating content on behalf of a brand to influence a target audience and drive profitable results.
  • Marketers want to see improvements in how their content marketing efforts can be measured, with 59% of survey respondents saying there’s a lack of actionable insights from current tracking methods. Other complaints about measurement included too much data to interpret (31%), difficulties in determining key performance indicators (31%) and ineffective past insights that would help future content development (28%), per the survey.

Dive Insight:

Advertisers see content marketing as a valuable strategy, as evidenced by their plans to increase spending on its development, per the ANA and Content Council survey. The pandemic likely has dampened investment levels, but content marketing remains a viable strategy in reaching audiences that have increased their consumption of digital media and are shopping online more frequently. Content marketing provides a way for marketers to engage consumers who are highly informed about products and services with the ready availability of research and reviews on the internet. Brands can inform and entertain their target audiences with engaging content, helping to form stronger relationships with key customers.

The study’s finding that marketers want to see improvements in content marketing measurement echoes separate research by The CMO Council that found marketers struggling to measure ROI. Developing better measurement methods could help ensure that marketers continue to increase spending on content marketing, especially as the pandemic continues to put pressure on marketers.

The study provides several insights into how advertisers develop a content marketing strategy. About half (52%) of survey respondents said they didn’t have a clearly document content strategy, compared with 35% who did and 13% who were unsure. About half (46%) of respondents with a documented strategy had a positive outlook for content marketing, which was twice as much as respondents without a strategy. The finding highlights the importance of having a unified plan for content marketing.

On an operational level, almost two-thirds (63%) of content marketing services are handled internally, a figure that’s likely to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Content marketing budgets averaged about $15.4 million when the survey was taken last year, and respondents said that spending was likely to reach $21.9 million in the following two-year period. Another survey is needed to determine whether in-house agencies, which many companies describe as content studios, are handling more content marketing responsibilities, per the study. The pandemic could drive interest in in-housing because of its focus on cost and efficiency, but could also amplify existing issues with the model.

As for technological priorities, almost half (46%) said they would test and learn strategies in the following six to 12 months. Forty-one percent of respondents expected to implement marketing automation, making it more popular than geotargeting (36%), actionable reporting (35%), artificial intelligence (AI) personalization, integrating a data management platform (24%), chatbots (24%) and augmented reality (15%), among other innovations, the survey found. Global marketing automation spend is expected to reach $25.1 billion by 2023 from $11.4 billion in 2017, according to Forrester research from 2018.

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