Metro creative director Sophie Robinson unveils plans to help brands create 'memorable experiences' for audiences

Metro has responded to the surge in demand for branded content and experiential with the launch of its new creative division Story, aimed at helping brands "make more impact" in the digital world, according to Metro creative director Sophie Robinson, who will head up the agency.

Creative director: Sophie Robinson

The publisher hopes the agency will give it a good grounding for brands looking for more creative advertising prospects, and while Robinson does acknowledge that display is still by far the main advertising breadwinner at Metro, the last six months in particular have brought a shift in demand.

“More and more briefs we are getting are asking us to create content, and that’s been gradual over the past 12 months, but in the past four to six months it’s been more and more,” Robinson told The Drum.

“In Q1 this year, that’s September to December for us, 75 per cent of our pitches was for creating content. We realised that it was an area that people were looking for, but I have to say it’s not just a content agency, it’s a creative agency.

“A lot of the briefs we’re getting are asking us to develop experiences; they want to do big events, big stunts. The content does form a massive part but it’s not the only thing that we’re doing.”

Metro has seen a spike in the number of brands interested in experiential advertising recently, something Robinson attributes to a realisation that advertising must go above and beyond to make a more substantial impact on audiences.

“Demand for experiential has increased in the past two months,” she said. “I think brands are increasingly realising that they have to do something for their audience, they can’t just be there, they have to actually be doing something.

“Brands have been realising that over the past few years but I think it’s just recently that they’re really seeing the power of creating experiences that are memorable for people. There are lots of brands that have been doing this for a while, but what I’m noticing is that the big bluechip brands are jumping on board and realising they need to be doing this as well.”

Story will pull together members of the planning, insight, editorial, design, production and project management teams in order to meet the demand from advertisers and expand Metro’s capabilities. Pickled vegetable brand Hayward is the latest client to sign up to Story in a media partnership that will involve branded content, competitions and sampling campaigns in London and Leeds.

The agency is set to capitalise on the rising interest in native advertising solutions, and Metro’s editorial department is working closely with the fledgling agency. While debate has raged across the industry on how involved editorial should become with commercial in native advertising solutions, Metro’s stance is that collaboration is necessary to have any chance of producing an effective result.

“We’re a very small team, we can’t really have two sets of editorial, so we do rely on them a lot,” Robinson said. “We’re very lucky that we’re really flexible and the editorial guys have always been commercially minded because they’ve had to be for the set-up to be free.”

“I don’t think it causes any problem because if we get editorial involved then we need to make sure that they’re always looking at it from an editorial angle and making sure that we are writing something that’s relevant to our audience.

“Brands are coming to us because they don’t want to write an advertorial that feels totally out of context. They’re coming to us because they want actual branded content that feels relevant to the paper. They’re listening to our editorial guys when they tell them how they would approach a subject, because they know our audience best.”

She added: “If you don’t have editorial involved then it makes it harder because it just becomes a basic advertorial and it doesn’t fit so well.”

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