My Choices for the Best Branded Content Partnerships in 2014

From Purina's 'Dear Kitten' Video to GE's 'Look Ahead,' Brands Found Success with Content Partners

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2014 may very well go down in history as the year that native advertising officially grabbed a seat at the mainstream media table. You couldn't attend a conference or even a boardroom meeting without coming across one of the many terms that have come to describe the blending of editorial and advertising. Sponsored content, native advertising, branded content, advertorial, brand publishing and the catchall umbrella term, content marketing. Regardless of what you call it, 2014 was a watershed year that brought journalists into the boardrooms and advertisers into the newsrooms.

With that in mind, Pressboard wanted to celebrate some of the programs that raised the high water mark for branded content partnerships this year.

Purina + Buzzfeed: "Dear Kitten" Video

Narrated by Buzzfeed Motion Pictures President Ze Frank, the video tells the story of an older cat welcoming a new kitten to the household. With over 18 million views on YouTube in under six months, the "Dear Kitten" video not only went viral, but it also brought in buyers. Nielsen research confirmed that when asked "How likely are you to consider buying wet cat food for your cat?" the brand saw a 57.8% brand lift among people exposed to the video when compared to the control group.

GE + The Economist: "GE Look Ahead"

GE is already recognized as a leader in branded content, and the "GE Look Ahead" program is one of its best. A daily look at the innovations transforming global business, "GE Look Ahead" combines the well-respected editorial standards of The Economist with the forward-thinking innovation of GE. Over 1,000 individual pieces have been created to date, covering everything from telemedicine to the promise of hypersonic flight.

Gillette + Thrillist: #NoSweat

The #NoSweat program executed a marketing trifecta -- content, community and commerce. The articles provided the audience with helpful and entertaining ways to live a #NoSweat life, while the hashtag #NoSweat encouraged readers to participate in the creation of new content on social media. Gillette also became the presenting partner of a custom curated clothing selection of the Thrillist-owned JackThreads men's fashion ecommerce site. The addition of a custom sale integration on JackThreads demonstrates how content and commerce can be blended in unique ways.

IBM + The Atlantic: "How Technology Transforms"

As "Moneyball" brought to light, data can be used to understand more than just business. The Atlantic and IBM teamed up to uncover how technology transforms the world of sports. The series provides analysis and statistics exploring issues such as "How apps may change your baseball swing" and "How data can protect the world's most valuable human real estate." IBM and The Atlantic provide a unique use case for data visualization told in a way that entertains and informs, while integrating IBM's technology chops.

Revlon + Hearst: #GoBOLD Video Series

Hearst Integrated Media, Mark Burnett's Vimby/One Three Media and Revlon celebrate bold, provocative women in the new competition series, #GoBOLD. Each webisode introduces a new mentor who shares a few secrets of success and presents a challenge designed to help contestants achieve their goals. The #GoBOLD videos integrate Revlon products organically and place Revlon at the center of provocative conversations.

Food Should Taste Good + Gothamist Media: "10 Best Office Lunches"

Taking a cue from Food Should Taste Good's message of quality and good taste, Gothamist Media's researched and ranked the 10 Best Office Lunches in DC by neighborhood. Taking it one step further, DCist integrated FSTG's product -- a line of great tasting snacks -- by pairing each best lunch with the perfect side snack from FSTG. It was not only the best-performing DCist advertorial of all time, it was also the top story on DCist the week of September 15th, outranking all editorial content.

Cuervo + Complex: "Have a Story"

Playing off of Cuervo's "Have a Story" platform, the brand worked with ComplexTV to uncover the stories of exceptional people across America and viewed their cities through their own personal lens. Tattoo-shop owners, photographers, designers and entrepreneurs from New York to LA give you a taste of their city, and a taste of Cuervo. High-quality video production and seamless brand integration work well for the brand, the publisher and most importantly, the viewer.

United Airlines + New York Times: "Take the Journey with Team USA"

"Take the Journey with Team USA," a collaboration between United Airlines and The New York Times, blends flight data into the history of the USA Olympic team in dozens of unique applications. Users can find out how many Olympic athletes are from their state or pack a plane with athletes to learn about equipment weight. A chronological timeline of Olympics games through the years shows flight paths to each Olympic city and surfaces New York Times articles telling the story of the games.

Netflix + Wired: "TV Got Better"

Wired and Netflix take a look at how TV viewing has changed throughout history, from the Golden Years of the 40s and 50s to the transmedia evolution of the early 2000s to the current migration of Hollywood's movie actors lending their talent to the small screen. Interviews, trend watching and podcasts are intertwined into the multimedia documentary-style experience. Placing the Netflix brand squarely in the conversation about innovation in television, while at the same time creating a story that readers want to share, exemplifies the promise of content marketing.

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