New Branded Content Agency From Billboard and THR

branded content agencyTwo legendary trade magazines join forces with latest entry in the branded content agency game

Is there a hotter trend in publishing than the in-house branded content agency? And what does this phenomenon mean for niche digital magazines?

Entertainment titans Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter (plus the latter’s fashion vertical Pret-a-Reporter) have announced Adapt Studios, a “Brand Lab” built to perfect the art of native ads using the magazines’ resources – as well as current and potential advertisers.

Both Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter – which, combined, draw 23.1 million monthly unique visitors in the United States and more than 15 million followers on social media, according to comScore – are properties of Guggenheim Media. According to the company, Billboard’s proprietary chart data, including its Billboard+Twitter Realtime Charts, will be featured in some of the branded content and native campaigns.

Digiday reports that Adapt Studios will be led by Tye Comer, former editor of Recent native ad clients on that site – which saw a boost in consumer audience under Comer – have included American Express, Ford, Mercedes, and Toshiba.

The Billboard+THR branded content agency is just the latest such project from publishers looking to leverage their editorial capacity. Here are three other recent examples:

Condé Nast

Perhaps the most controversial, Condé Nast’s 23 Stories was one of, if not the first in-house branded content agency to explicitly state that editorial staff would be contributing to marketing efforts for ad buyers.

Time Inc. 

Time Inc. announced in July of 2014 a team that would handle sponsored content across all 25 of the company’s titles including Entertainment Weekly, Money, Food & Wine, Real Simple, and Sports Illustrated.

The Wall Street Journal 

WSJ Custom Studios launched in March of 2014.


But Billboard+THR‘s Adapt has one thing those publishers don’t: starpower.

“What sets us apart from everyone is our access,” Co-President John Amato told Digiday. “We started to ask, ‘How can we make a big impact on behalf of clients?’”

Added Amato in an official statement:

“Adapt Studios is very much rooted in, and the product of, an entertainment company. With the power of three industry-leading properties in BillboardThe Hollywood Reporter and Pret-a-Reporter, we see untapped potential for smart content that represents brands, and cultivates and engages our already diverse audiences.”

And while niche multiplatform publishers may not be able to enlist Jared Leto’s help on video ad for a laptop, they can still learn from the successes and failures of a legacies jumping feet first into native ads via in-house branded content agency.

After all, no matter how big you are, you still have to play by the rules.

The FTC is watching these practices with a close eye, because as sponsored content becomes more sophisticated, the lines of acceptable labeling become blurrier.

On the other hand, nothing’s stopping you from experimenting with native ads. Check out five of our favorite native advertising examples, including Mequoda Member Electronic House.

Is the branded content agency trend a positive or negative for publishing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

To read more about the new branded content agency from Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter, visit Digiday.


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