“The effectiveness of branded content depends above all on its quality”


“The effectiveness of branded content depends above all on its quality”

“The effectiveness of branded content depends above all on its quality”

Comments gathered by Alexandra Klinnik, photos by Virginie de Galzain

Jean-Christophe Demarta is senior vice president of global advertising at The New York Times. Having grown familiar with the media world over the course of 25 years, the former director of advertising at Le Monde and the International Herald Tribune lays out his vision of the future of advertising and branded content in the digital era...

You are senior vice president of global advertising at The New York Times, a newspaper which, as it develops, is gaining more and more subscriptions – and less and less advertising. How is this choice affecting your line of work?

Jean-Christophe Demarta: In reality, it doesn't fundamentally affect my work since there has always been advertising at The New York Times and there always will be, at least in the foreseeable future. That said, the priorities within the company have changed. With a reader-focused strategy the onus is put on content. Today, readers are basically "putting up with" adverts because the latter are of a poor quality. This is encouraging new generations to increasingly resort to ad blockers. It's therefore in the media's interests to enhance the quality of ads. Does this new strategy mean less investment in innovative advertising?J.C.: It all depends on what you mean by innovative advertising. If you mean flooding sites with ads then that's not our objective. If, however, you mean developing strategies geared towards high quality branded content then there is indeed investment in that. We are also looking for new media tools such as virtual reality, enhanced reality and audio. Technology encourages the adoption of multiple forms of advertising. We need to create high-quality advertising experiences that are both acceptable for readers and truly effective.  
«Technology encourages the adoption of multiple forms of advertising »

When it comes to branded content, in 2014 The New York Timeslaunched its T Brand Studio. What is your assessment of it today and what are the challenges?

J.C.: Five years on, it constitutes 500 campaigns carried out for some of the world's biggest companies but also some of the smallest. Demand for branded content is still there, notably from the brands. This strategy enables communication of a fundamental, underlying message – a message of a corporate nature. Companies are looking for meaning and want consumers to see their brands as responsible and environmentally aware. Branded content lends itself to this kind of approach more easily than to traditional advertising.
His life philosophy

Who is your guru?

Maurice Lévy, the president of Publicis, has always impressed me. He's an incredibly effective businessman with great business sense and a great understanding of business relations.

What is your mantra?

Try and stay focused on what you can change. There are domains in which we can all make a difference. That's what motivates me.

How do you keep your chakras balanced?

Through the gym and through running and cycling.

You say branded content is still present. In your opinion, does branded content still have potential for growth in the future?

J.C.: In effect, there is potential for growth within a number of media domains and in markets around the world. On paper branded content has suffered a downturn; I don't know if this phenomenon is the same in the digital sector. One thing is for sure, however: brands will continue to need to communicate. For the media world, it's all about focusing on quality. Content must also be in line with the media brand and the target audience. Unlike with advertising, the reader has a choice: they have control over what they see. The effectiveness of a brand will depend above all on its quality, and today there are inequalities in this area. One thing I have noticed is that quality differs depending on the means provided to the advertising team. Branded content requires investment: the end result is relatively expensive. One of T Brand Studio's strengths has been the fact that it has recruited 150 people. The more people you have working "on the ground", the more the information you gather will be relevant and, consequently, of quality. 

Have you identified trends when it comes to branded content?

J.C.: Well there's audio, of course. Podcasts have come back to the fore in recent times, notably in the world of journalism. In parallel, one of the trends that I find really interesting remains that of graphic and interactive effects. These visual aspects are really useful when it comes to enhancing understanding of a specific topic. Generally speaking, branded content is based above all on text and photo. Of course, these elements can be effective, but the content that stands out the most is that which boasts advanced visual effects. That said, we should not fall into the trap of overdoing things, because the reader does not necessarily have a lot of time on their hands. At The New York Times we also use immersive technologies. I think that the rolling out of 5G will facilitate access to virtual reality solutions. Right now we're in the test phase: will this be an innovation that will develop massively? That's the big question. 

At the end of December a New York Times article entitled "How Much of the Internet is Fake?" looked at the reliability of statistics related to the number of users viewing online content. What is your vision of the performance of digital advertising in general?

J.C.: It's a vast topic. We need to rethink the way we address the issue of advert's effectiveness. The digital era has brought with it an era of immediacy. For more than a hundred years, advertising existed without any real direct interaction with the target audience. Today we can count clicks, but they only tell us that someone has clicked on a link and nothing about content quality. The rise of the digital age has led to many abuses, such as the creation of fake advertising traffic. Digital advertising fraud could become "the second largest source of income for organised crime groups, just behind drug trafficking" according to the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA). Brands are paying for adverts that are not being viewed: this is a terrifying situation that we have to deal with. What's more, we need to be more reasonable when it comes to measurement methods. We need to take into account the person who didn't click on the link too. Today, if you click, you're useful to the brand, but it's another story for the internet user who simply saw the advert: this target is harder to identify. To fix this we need to move towards better quality in a context where even the smallest, simplest websites have advertising. 

Finally, what are the trends that you have identified in 2019? What are your plans?

J.C.: Branded content is a form of communication that should grow at a rate of 5% per year, bringing with it some interesting developments for all relevant stakeholders: the media, brands and content providers. One of the other trends will be the way we measure effectiveness. Why do Google and Facebook perform so well? Because advertisers have the impression that with them their advertising works. Even though the social network has been the subject of numerous scandals it continues to be very effective on the marketing front. Advertisers are not philanthropists: they are looking for spaces that offer them high quality and that work, and we need to be able to meet those demands. We have spent a lot of time resolving technical problems while Facebook, little by little, has been creating its own world with much fewer problems. Now it's time to knuckle down... 

Find the right track
through the content jungle
Story Jungle is a leading independent content marketing agency, specialising in campaigns for premium and B2B target audiences.

With a comprehensive network of international correspondents, the Agency creates editorial strategies in multiple languages throughout EMEA, LATAM and Asia. We are experts in Thought Leadership, Influence, Inbound Marketing, Social Selling and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) campaigns.

Story Jungle was selected by LinkedIn to become one of only 10 certified global Content Partners.

Introducing Story Jungle Agency
The agency
We lead the fight
in the war on boring
We at Story Jungle powerfully believe that your convictions are your commercial weapons.

However: 71% of C-suite executives in Europe believe most branded content is... "boring*". And 64% of them expect a brand to adopt an authentic and original point of view.

That’s why we place such importance on creating content strategies that really make your target audience stop and think. Let’s lead the fight in the war on boring.

*Raconteur, 2017.
Turnover is
the new KPI
All our services are geared to helping you align your sales and marketing teams.

Our expertise? Create a distributed storytelling strategy custom-made for the most appropriate distribution channels (SEO, LinkedIn, Twitter, newsletter...) and produce content in the formats that resonate most powerfully with your audience (video opinion columns, long forms, nanographics...) with the single-minded purpose of enabling you to achieve your objectives: brand awareness, consideration and lead generation.

For us, turnover is the new KPI.
Editorial strategy and content production
Story Jungle covers the entire content creation cycle: from establishing editorial strategies (or Content Frameworks) using our unique methodology, to producing innovative, dynamic content using the latest, cutting-edge formats.

Our French and international editorial teams have worked for some of the world’s best-known media outlets and conceptualise and create high value-added editorial content that engages premium and/or B2B audiences.
Web platforms, social networks, LinkedIn, newsletters, podcasts, new media
With its expertise as a publisher, Story Jungle helps brands create their distribution strategy across all established and emerging channels to maximize the performance of their content.

Story Jungle is one of only 10 certified LinkedIn Content Partners worldwide.
Data and performance
A/B testing, optimization, lead review
Data is at the heart of any marketing strategy. Story Jungle monitors your campaign success throughout its lifecycle, ensuring you achieve your goals: detection of Weak Signals, A/B testing, top angle selection, optimization of content formats, evaluation of the quality of leads generated.
With more than 10,000 contributors worldwide and a network of correspondents built up during more than a decade’s experience, Story Jungle's international editorial team produces content on all topic themes, in all formats and in multiple languages for clients throughout the EMEA, LATAM and Asian regions. Our locally-based correspondents ensure content is in-step with local market styles and structures.
The war on
Accuracy at all
R&D is in
our DNA
Don’t bite off
more than you can chew
Audience is king
Do what you
say,and say
what you do
Time is quality
Save the Jungle!

The war on BORING!

Your convictions are your commercial weapons.
However: 71% of C-suite executives in Europe believe most branded content is... "boring".
And 64% of them expect a brand to adopt an authentic and original point of view.

And, be honest, who likes listening to so-called “experts” repeating the same tired old trends that went out of style years ago? That's why at Story Jungle, we pledged to lead the war on boring. That's our mission!

Accuracy at all costs

It’s our guiding star. Factual errors, inaccuracies, approximations... are all banned at Story Jungle. We believe: “Haste makes waste”! Our processes guarantee rigorous fact-checking of all our content.

R&D is in our DNA

Discovering new formats is our specialty. Story Jungle teams are on constant lookout for new formats and content approaches, scouring the Web to unearth innovative attention-grabbing storytelling styles from around the world. Want to find out more? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Good creative ideas are worth their weight in gold, right? So don’t twist it out of shape just to make sure it hits every single goal of every single stakeholder. Stay focused! Prioritize. Make some tough choices. At Story Jungle our goal is simple: execute the creative idea, don’t kill it.

Audience is king

At the end of the day, it is the quality of audience engagement that allows you to achieve your campaign objectives, whatever they may be. Story Jungle always demands its content has a “real media” approach, making audience interest a top priority – if its too corporate, no one will read it. Our editors are all tried and tested frontline journalists from some of the world’s leading internationally renowned media titles.

Do what you say, and say what you do

At Story Jungle we try to give you maximum visibility throughout all stages of project development. When we commit to a deadline, we deliver on time, every time.

Time is quality

"All the success of an operation lies in its preparation" (The Art of War). There, I said it! Whether it's responding to a client brief, a call for tender, designing a content campaign or simply a single impactful asset, at Story Jungle, we agree with Sun Tzu. In the words of French poet Nicolas Boileau: "Hasten slowly, and without losing heart, Put your work twenty times upon the anvil: Polish it over and over again, and then polish it once more; sometimes add, and often erase."

Save the Jungle!

If we carry on like this, there will be no more jungle. So yes, the Story Jungle team all voted – yes, we actually sat down and voted – to make projects that promote environmental and social goals a priority. We want to make a real positive impact and play our part in saving the jungle
Contact us
Contact us
Have a project or question to discuss?
Just want to swing through the Jungle and grab a coffee? Drop us a message
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Story Jungle, 10 bis boulevard de la Bastille, 75012 Paris - Tel : +33 1 43 47 35 12