New OneSpot Platform Fuses Branded Content and Advertising

Journalism, PR and advertising: As the lines between the three practices continue to blur, the point at which they meet is the talk of the communications industry. We’ve covered the issue on blogs, intellectualized it and discussed it in LinkedIn forums. But what if we had a tool to bring the three together seamlessly?

Today, a startup called OneSpot launched a new platform designed to simplify the equation by turning branded content pieces into banner ads, thereby giving PR and marketing professionals more power to distribute and monetize their own content.

Founder and CEO Matt Cohen has worked in tech and venture capital roles, but he first grew interested in advertising while working at The Houston Chronicle and noticing that readers consistently called back-page ads one of their favorite parts of the paper–because these sections provided useful information on local sales and events. This experience helped form his promotional philosophy: “What we think of as advertising is generally quite commercial, but it’s still content. And it doesn’t have to be annoying. I’ve always felt that advertising could and should be better.”

Here’s a relevant statistic: Despite the fact the we all see banner ads everywhere online, 86% of web users haven’t clicked on one over the past year. Impressions are valuable, but you really need the clicks. Cohen recognized the root of the problem: “I never see a banner ad that I’m interested in.” Starting at that point, he made it his goal to improve the ad experience for both the user and the advertiser. Here’s an example of his company’s end product:

Cohen explains the purpose of the new platform:

“The basic idea is that we’re transforming content into advertising. Alternately, we’re taking commercial content and using the power of online advertising to distribute it more effectively. If you create content that doesn’t help your business, then what’s the point?”

The OneSpot platform ties into a brand’s existing content management system, takes an entire portfolio of content–be it “owned” or “earned”–and “turns every piece of that content into one or more ads”. For an example, the image above is a PRNewser article on brand journalism transformed into a banner ad by the OneSpot. It contains no “click here to buy” buttons, only Facebook and LinkedIn icons designed to heighten its shareability. In other words, it’s like a banner ad that users might actually click.

The platform also automatically considers each piece of content via keywords, scours ad exchanges and compiles a list of available spaces where a post would be most likely to reach its target audience. It then tracks consumer behavior to determine which spots proved most effective, thereby allowing PR pros to more conveniently demonstrate ROI.

How is the product relevant to the PR world? As Cohen puts it, “PR folks have always been the ones who know how to communicate rather than message“. Cohen understands the value of brand journalism, telling us that he would have no problem reading running tips from Nike or survival tips from Bear Grylls via owned content mills like Degree’s The Adrenalist site. He believes that such brand journalism projects represent the future of communications–and that his platform can help your brand get there.

In short, if you want to use either original or third-party editorial content to promote your brand, then OneSpot is worth a look.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.