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No Longer a Digital Native's Game: TV Fuels Social Branded Content

A recent high-performing social post featuring a brand integration for Pepsi as part of TBS late night show 'CONAN's hit 'Clueless Gamer' series. Fans could win the Nintendo Switch console by participating in Pepsi's Snapchat prize program.
A recent high-performing social post featuring a brand integration for Pepsi as part of TBS late night show ‘CONAN’s hit ‘Clueless Gamer’ series. Fans could win the Nintendo Switch console by participating in Pepsi’s Snapchat prize program. Credit: Turner

In less than a year, branded content from TV networks on Facebook has more than doubled. No longer are these social media executions viewed as merely added value or an extension of an advertiser’s traditional TV buy for extra exposure. Branded content campaigns on social media are becoming a bona fide business for media companies, empowering marketers with new ways to connect with their target audiences. And optimizing these campaigns for engagement, a key metric that drives brand impact on social, has improved as well, meaning their value is easier to quantify and build on in the future.

According to social media analytics and insights company ListenFirst, the volume of branded posts from TV networks on Facebook increased steadily over the past three quarters, with a 72% jump in Q2 2017 compared with Q4 2016. Consumers are now more familiar with branded content on social media. In fact, more than half of consumers say that they watch branded content on social platforms once a week or more, per a study by CNN’s ad sales research team.

Despite this rapid growth, quantity doesn’t always translate to quality. Some media companies and advertisers are seeing a higher return than others.

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While media companies are investing in different ways to support this emerging business, the formula of pairing premium content with rich social data for targeting is driving success. For example, at Turner, an in-house global social agency called Launchpad works alongside creative teams to translate the company’s properties into quality social branded content and engage target audiences.

To better understand the type of branded content that generates the highest consumer response on social media, Turner Ignite and ListenFirst conducted a joint study that evaluated social data for brand partnerships with the top 140 national TV networks in the first half of 2017, as well as Turner Ignite’s own success metrics for social brand campaigns. The results uncovered key trends that are driving engaging branded content on social media.

1) Video is the most engaging post type.

Video drives the highest volume and is the most engaging post type. Additionally, video elicits a stronger emotional reaction than other post types, showing lifts in “love” (+46%), “wow” (+39%) and “haha” (+53%).

Engagement by Post Type

Post Type Share of Posts Share of Responses Share of Reactions


2) Premium social handles drive engagement.

TV audiences are poised to consume custom video content from their favorite shows and networks whenever and wherever they can get it. Advertisers who leverage the already engaged fan bases of their media partners will reap big rewards.

Branded content distributed by a show or network’s handle generated nine times more engagement than the same content posted by the advertiser’s handle.

3) Quality content will keep users engaged.

For the first half of 2017, our research showed that within all branded content, custom content that featured an advertiser fully integrated within a media asset delivered a 30% higher response rate on average than branded content with logo entitlement only (sponsored posts). Sponsored posts, however, have been more popular, accounting for more than two-thirds of all advertiser-backed posts published by TV networks.

One of the top five most engaging branded posts in Q2, according to ListenFirst data, was a custom video created by the team behind Adult Swim’s hit show ‘Rick and Morty’ for 20th Century Fox’s ‘Alien: Covenant.’ Credit: Turner

While capturing attention quickly is critical, quality content keeps users engaged. Research by Facebook and Nielsen found that up to 47% of the value in a video campaign was delivered in the first three seconds, while up to 74% was delivered in the first 10 seconds. Turner Ignite focuses on achieving a 30-second view across all social platforms, and sells guarantees on this metric as an indicator of quality engagement. By using the company’s intellectual property and premium creators, Turner Ignite can produce quality branded content that engages fans just like their favorite shows, and keep them locked in – even through video completion.

4) Leverage data to identify and connect with a brand’s target audience.

Great content can only achieve a marketer’s business objectives if it’s seen by the right people, who will engage and share it. Pairing premium branded content with data-driven targeting enables marketers to reach a desired audience via paid promotion.

Turner uses custom, first-party audiences to identify passion points of both show fans and brand partners, informing creative development and targeting on social. For example, to convey the power of Pitney Bowes’ global ecommerce solutions, CNN’s brand studio Courageous took an unconventional look at the company’s technology at work to navigate one of life’s most important deliveries – an engagement ring. The custom video was distributed via CNNMoney’s social handle, and leveraged Launchpad to reach executives and business decision makers by using proprietary social audiences, including in-target engagers with past campaigns.

Credit: Turner

The four-minute video was viewed by the brand’s target audience 1 million times for 30 seconds or longer, with 38% of those views being the entire length of the video.

5) Advertisers can diversify distribution across a variety of programming genres.

Of the posts published on show pages, sports programs drove the lion’s share of total posts (40%), but there are opportunities to drive engagement through other genres. Late-night programming, for example, made up only 2% of the total social posts on show pages, but was the third most engaging genre after drama and sports.

Similarly, for digital-first companies wholly owned by TV-based media companies, the ad categories driving the highest volume of posts aren’t always the most engaging. While there were over double the number of food posts compared with the telecommunications ad category, telecommunications campaigns generated 26% more engagement.

Late-Night TV: Sports TV:

Categories Driving VolumeCategories Driving Volume1. Beverages, coffee and soft drinks1. Financial services2. Entertainment2. Telecommunications3. Beer, wine and liquor3. Beverages, coffee and soft drinksCategories With Highest EngagementCategories with Highest Engagement1. Entertainment1. Transportation and travel2. Automotive2. Telecommunications3. Beverages, coffee and soft drinks3. Apparel, fashion and retailMost Engaging Late-Night ProgramsMost Engaging Sports Programs1. Conan (TBS)1. NBA on TNT2. Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)2. SportsCenter (ESPN)3. The Late Late Show With James Corden (CBS)3. 2016 Australian Open Tennis on ESPN

Reality TV: Digital-First Properties:

Categories Driving VolumeCategories Driving Volume1. Entertainment1. Foods2. Cruise lines2. Automotive3. Financial/business services3. Beer, wine and liquorCategories with Highest EngagementCategories With Highest Engagement1. Auto services1. Telecommunications2. Beverages, coffee and soft drinks2. Foods3. Entertainment3. AutomotiveMost Engaging Reality ProgramsMost Engaging Digital-First Properties1. Fast N’ Loud (Discovery)1. Bleacher Report (Turner) Bleacher Report & Nike2. Street Outlaws (Discovery)2. Great Big Story (Turner)Great Big Story & LensCrafters3. Impractical Jokers (truTV) truTV’s Impractical Jokers & Mountain Dew3. GameSpot (CBS)

Media companies and marketers win on social when pairing quality, fan-driven content with sophisticated social data, yet there is still room to run. We believe this momentum is still building in terms of opportunities to expand content partnership strategies, and bring new value to the social marketing ecosystem.

About the Authors

Dan Riess, Exec VP-Content Partnerships and Co-head, Turner Ignite
Dan Riess, Exec VP-Content Partnerships and Co-head, Turner Ignite

Dan Riess is exec VP-content partnerships and co-head of Turner Ignite. Within this leadership position, Riess oversees the ideation, creation and distribution of branded content across Turner’s entertainment, news and kids brands, as well as Launchpad, Turner’s global social agency.

Jason Klein, Co-CEO & Co-Founder of ListenFirst
Jason Klein, Co-CEO & Co-Founder of ListenFirst

Jason co-founded ListenFirst in 2012, a social analytics and insights company that helps the world’s most successful brands identify trends, predict sales and drive revenue. As co-CEO, he has helped drive the adoption of social and digital data into traditional measurement, including launching a digital ratings standard for TV, and box office prediction metrics for film.


Turner Ignite is focused on reimagining advertising. Powered by unrivaled branded content services, data-rich ad targeting capabilities, first-of-its kind social optimization tools and global distribution, Turner Ignite empowers brands to build more meaningful connections with consumers and drive return on investment at scale. The business unit is backed by Turner’s wide-scale audience of diverse fans within its portfolio properties, including leading media brands Adult Swim, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, CNN, Great Big Story, HLN, SuperDeluxe, TBS, TNT, truTV, Bleacher Report and Turner Sports’ high-profile coverage of the NBA, Major League Baseball, NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, ELEAGUE, UEFA and professional golf. In addition, the company has digital sales partnerships with the NBA, NCAA and PGA.

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