Over the last few years, Vox Creative—the native ad arm of Vox Media—has shot to the A-list of native advertising options, earning perhaps the best reputation of any shop not named T Brand Studio.
Its high-quality branded documentary series, like “Two-a-Days” for Russell Athletics, integrate well into Vox’s portfolio of sites. Most notably, the work feels true to the brand, and not like a cheap play for impressions and clicks.
This summer at Cannes, I sat down with Armando Turco, GM of Vox Creative, to talk about setting content marketing goals, measuring engagement, and the future of social media. Check out the interview below, which was created as part of our Accountable Innovation Series in partnership with Magnet Media, an industry-leading global strategic studio.
Joe Lazauskas: Welcome to Accountable Innovation at Cannes. I’m Joe Lazauskas, and I’m here with Armando Turco, the general manager for Vox Creative, which has been creating some really cool branded content lately. We’re going to put you in the hot seat, ask five rapid-fire questions.
Armando Turco: Cool, let’s do it.
Lazauskas: You ready?
Turco: Yep. Let’s go for it.
Lazauskas: Alright, let’s start. What is the biggest key to creating branded content that actually performs?
Turco: Wow. What we see often is clients sort of stopping, forgetting to stop, and asking themselves: What is this thing expected to do? So we’ve been much more disciplined lately about really orienting our content efforts around KPIs and having a very strict communication strategy that still allows room for testing but is always mapping back to a particular communication task—which seems like the simplest thing in the world to ask for, but often is overlooked, especially when you’re trying to generate so much content at great volume and at scale.
Lazauskas: What three KPIs do you find yourself using the most?
Turco: I’m asked that question by a lot of clients, like, “What do you think we should be measuring?” and my first response is always, “What are you trying to achieve?”
We find that branded content, in particular, and especially the kind of branded content that Vox Creative is creating, is deeply engaging and so it functions quite well at the top of the funnel, to be driving relevance and to be creating credibility for brands that are looking to establish roots in a particular realm of culture, or at least amplify their voice in a really interesting, engaging way. So I would say engagement and a particular depth of engagement, so we’re looking really closely at the amount of time that people are spending with content. I think we live in a world where three seconds is considered to be a benchmark, and we’re trying to hold ourselves at Vox to a much higher standard than that, especially when you consider that a lot of our video content, and a lot of the content that we produce in text, is engaging people for much longer than that.
Lazauskas: Snapchat or Instagram?
Lazauskas: Rosé or frosé?
Lazauskas: What’s one thing that you’ve seen here that gets you really excited?
Turco: I think convergence. It sounds a little bit cliché. It’s one of the reasons why I left the creative agency world and came over to a content studio and a publisher—to see how different capabilities and a convergence of data, audio, and great content, creativity, quality, scale, distribution, are all coming together in a really interesting way, whereas before they used to be quite verticalized and siloed. I’ve worked on teams where you have a client who has six different agencies—in fact, you want to ask me what I think marketers are doing wrong, is just fracturing and fragmenting all of their marketing efforts across so many different suppliers, when, in fact, there are a few simple solutions where you can converge, and all of those things can work in support of each other in a very real-time way.
Lazauskas: All right. Less frosé, more convergence.
Turco: That’s the theme of the conversation.