Budgets continue to rise for content-led marketing, according to the Global Content Marketing Futures survey [download page] conducted by The World Media Group. However, advertisers and agencies differ on what a content-led approach is best for achieving.

The survey was fielded among 260 respondents spanning advertisers (21%), agencies (38%), media owners (27%) and other consultants (14%). These groups tend to have different opinions about what a content-led approach is best for, per the results. For example, a leading 41% share of advertisers feel a content-led approach is best for brand engagement (41%), with building awareness (20%) the next-best vote-getter. A plurality (35%) of agencies, by contrast, feel that changing perceptions is the top benefit of a content-led approach to advertising, with this particular option only garnering 6% of the vote among advertisers.

As for media owners? Their leading response was thought leadership, as cited by about 1 in every 3 respondents (34%).

Not surprisingly given their attitudes towards content-led campaign benefits, the largest swathe of agency respondents said that a shift in brand perceptions (43%) was the main KPI of the most recent campaign they worked on. The next-largest share (30%) said that an increase in brand awareness was the top KPI.

Advertisers had a somewhat more equally distributed set of KPIs: 23% share pointed to a shift in brand perceptions as their main KPI for their most recent campaign, equal with the share who said the same about time spent with content (harking back to their response about brand engagement being a top benefit). A sizable share (21%) of advertisers also said that an increase in brand awareness was their main KPI.

Advertisers Tout Importance of “Always On” Communications

What’s the optimal approach to communications when considering the customers’ decision-making journey – always-on, targeted, or scheduled? For advertisers, there was a clear winner.

Roughly 6 in 10 (62%) said that the most effective approach to implementing content-led communications was being “always on” – using brand storytelling to build long-term engagement with the audience so that when decisions are made the brand is top of mind.

Some see it otherwise, however. About one-quarter (23%) of respondents said that the most effective approach is personalized targeting of brand storytelling that follows the data to target individuals at decision-making moments.

The approach cited by the fewest (15%) respondents was to schedule brand storytelling at times when the brand knows the audience is likely to be considering decision-making.

Though this was only cited by 15% as the the most effective approach, about twice as many (29% share) said that this most accurately reflects their current approach. Still, a majority (56%) said they currently use an always-on approach, with few (15%) currently relying on personalized targeting of storytelling.

Paid Social to See Rising Investment

Of course, it takes investment to maintain an always-on approach to content-lead advertising. And where might that budget go?

Over the past year, advertisers were most likely to have invested in paid social media channels (82%) and trusted digital media channels (82%), with a majority (65%) also investing in their brand’s own channels. Fewer turned to legacy channels such as trusted broadcast media (47%) and trusted print media (32%), while one-quarter (24%) made use of open programmatic marketplaces.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, almost half (47%) plan to increase their expenditures on paid social media channels, while another 47% plan to maintain their level of spend. Almost 4 in 10 will hike their spend on trusted digital media channels, while a further 62% will maintain their spending levels.

The only channel for which more advertisers plan to decrease than increase their level of spend is print media, at 21% and 9%, respectively.

The full report is available for download here.

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