The IAB Content Marketing Town Hall Break Down

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) on January 24 held its inaugural Content Marketing Town Hall, a collaborative meeting for publishers and brands to discuss the important issues of content marketing from what it is to who’s in charge of it. The Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) Joe Pulizzi opened the town hall with the story of one of content marketing’s oldest and lasting brands, John Deere. After nearly 120 years John Deere’s “The Furrow” is one of the largest farming magazines and is still inspiring great brand loyalty.

As Julie Van Ullen, of IAB, commented in her blog on the town hall, “John Deere has been doing it since 1895 with “The Furrow,” so what is making content marketing so attractive now to the modern marketer? While there is no clear cut definition of content marketing, I would put forth that it is content created by a brand, that even if the branding were removed, that the content would still be valuable and engaging to a reader. If done well, it creates positive brand connotation. And if we work with that definition, it makes sense that the modern marketer (much like the modern publisher) wants to get the attention of content-ravenous consumers, most of whom have one or more devices attached to them at any given moment with which to consume.”

Highlights of the town hall include:

  •  Five case studies on: NYT Richocet, Pepsi Pulse, Forbes Brandvoice, Sears, and Content Marketing & IAB Rising Star Ad Units.
  •  Hal Muchnick of Kontera and Ron Elwell of Swoop discussed ways to reduce the complexity of content marketing to ensure that consumers see what’s relevant to them and not crowded by annoying ads and irrelevant content.
  •  And an agenda setting Q&A with IAB’s Susan Borst and Julie Van Ullen. One discussion centered around the common concern that brand safety seemed to be a higher priority than publisher safety even though publishers take a bigger hit than brands when consumers feel that their trust has been breached. Some suggestions from the audience and presenters included:                                  a) Be Authentic: “People visit because they see something they like. They return because they know they will find something that speaks to them. They tell others because they feel appreciated. When spam and messaging focused on sales seeps through the cracks, they’ll leave. If sales attempts are aggressive, they’ll not only leave; they’ll take others with them and many will give a warning to other would-be visitors. Separate the content from the ads.”                                                                                                              b) Be Transparent: “Consumers can smell a misplaced article almost as soon as they see it. Be open and honest about your content sources. Label articles that are sourced from somewhere else. If an article is sponsored, say so.”                                              c) Make Policies Clear: “When working with partners, make sure that they know what your policies are for advertising and content marketing. Of course, you can only do that if you have policies and guidelines for content marketing in place. Companies that work together should understand each others’ businesses along with goals and expectations of everyone involved.”

IAB Consultant, Katie Stroud, who wrote up the Content Marketing Insights report of the event, said, “While practical, these guidelines were pulled out of a Q&A session at the IAB Content Marketing Town Hall. A lot of work needs to be done before more formal and detailed guidelines can better serve the content marketing community for both publishers and brands.”

(For additional information contact: Interactive Advertising Bureau, 212-380-4700,;;;