Guardian eyes branded content opportunities for Google Glass edition, Guardian Labs chief Anna Watkins reveals

The Guardian is exploring branded content opportunities with advertisers for its Google Glass edition which launched last month, Guardian Labs chief Anna Watkins has revealed.

Speaker: Anna Watkins at the IAB Content Conference

Speaking to The Drum at the IAB Content Conference in London, Watkins - who leads the Guardian's branded content division which launched last February - said plans are in the early stages and further details would be forthcoming, but ideas being bandied around include a potential dating show format.

Watkins also revealed that the Guardian has developed an in-house real-time content tracking system, Ophan, which will help solve the measurability issue around branded content for clients.

“We are now developing live data dashboards for our clients,” she said. “We’ve developed an editorial tool called Ophan which enables teams to track how every single piece of content – video, text or picture – is performing across the globe. It enables our optimisation teams within editorial to optimise that content in real time.

“It shows where referrals are coming from and across which devices. We’re now taking that out to our clients, it’s still in beta, so we can say that as of now we can track our branded content campaigns in real time and optimise the content.”

“The other thing is that we’ve just integrated our ad server Double Click into Ophan so basically that means we can serve ads that drive traffic to our branded content based on trending themes and topics.”

Watkins said the publisher hoped to use major branded content deals such as those with EE and Unilever to fund the creation of new editorial products, and said the Guardian was particularly pleased that Guardian Witness - its open journalism platform - the product of a commercial partnership, went on to win a Press Gazette journalism award.

“It invites our readers in and comes back to the philosophy of the Guardian which is about being participative, comment is free and sharing our content across platforms,” she said.

“It was the meeting of the Guardian’s open journalism ambitions along with EE’s marketing business objectives. If we partner with a brand in the in the right way, when they’ve got the right values and they’ve got, if you like, a higher purpose, it’s when that aligns with our journalistic ambitions that it really works.”

According to Watkins, the partnership with EE has so far delivered a total reach of five million unique users, social media activity reaching 40 million users and 48 per cent increase in brand positivity. She added that it was “the holy grail” of branded content for the Guardian and their flagship example of when it goes right.

Watkins also revealed that the Guardian has renewed its commercial partnership with EE for another year, and is currently working on nearly 100 branded content projects for a range of clients.

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