Branded Content, Branded Ads and Driving Efficient Purchase Intent

Digital marketing agencies need to be at the top of their game when it comes to understanding and leveraging new products. In times when new ad production is more challenging, sponsoring branded content from creators and publishers can be an attractive option. But when it’s also critical to make the most of every media dollar, how can marketers also make sure they use branded content as efficiently as possible to improve a brand’s bottom line?

Part of the answer lies in relying on a multiplicity of voices.

Marketers already know that when consumers hear about a brand or product from multiple sources, they’re more likely to want to make purchases, sign up for subscriptions or otherwise take meaningful actions.

Marketers can also use a “surround sound” of voices—in the form of standard ads and sponsored branded content from creators and publishers—to drive efficient purchase intent. That’s according to a new Facebook Marketing Science meta-analysis of 26 lift studies with CPG advertisers across product subcategories, global regions and ad formats like static images or video.

How a “surround sound” approach aids purchase intent

Our analysis saw that the combination of branded content ads and standard brand ads from the same campaign across Facebook and Instagram drove purchase intent at a four-fifths lower average cost per person than when using either branded content or brand ads alone.

Mean cost per incremental person (CPIP): Purchase intent

(lower cost is better)

Controlled multi-cell lift studies with CPG clients across regions & sub-verticals; n=15 studies, subset of action intent asking specifically about purchase

Cost per incremental person, or CPIP, represents the ad dollars spent on each individual that responded favorably to a question about an ad. In this meta-analysis, the mean CPIP for purchase intent was 82% lower for the mixed approach—far more efficient than campaigns that consisted of only branded content or only ads.

This illustrates how multiple “voices” can accelerate the customer journey for CPG products and how branded content can work in tandem with ads as part of a broader digital strategy.

The persuasive power of branded content

This analysis within the CPG vertical shows how content from creators and publishers—combined with the trust consumers have in a brand—can lead to a specific action. It also reinforces insights we have shared in the retail fashion category.

For example, a study of US fashion shoppers found that creators can wield significant clout; almost a third of those shoppers follow an influencer for their product reviews, and about two-fifths said they follow an influencer to keep up with trends.1

Reasons why fashion shoppers in the US follow fashion influencers

“Global Retail Fashion Consumer Study” by Accenture (Facebook-commissioned survey of 12,278 people in the US, Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, UK, Australia, India, Indonesia), Nov 2018 to Feb 2019.

The “surround sound” approach can be powerful if purchase intent is the campaign objective—but as always, marketers should keep their specific marketing goals in mind.

For ad recall, use branded content or ads separately

While branded content and ads together were the most efficient in driving purchase intent, this integrated approach wasn’t the clear winner throughout the marketing funnel. In the new meta-analysis, campaigns with only branded content or only ads had a lower mean CPIP for ad recall compared with mixed campaigns (22% lower for unaided and 14% lower for aided).

We think this is because branded content-only campaigns and ad-only campaigns tended to have a higher frequency per individual ad. This made it more likely for people to learn through repetition of the same creative, thus driving ad recall.

Mean cost per incremental person (CPIP): Ad recall

(lower cost is better)

Taken together, these different CPIP results reinforce the need to keep your campaign goals in mind. Nuances—like whether you combine sponsored branded content and ads together as part of the same campaign—should reflect the actual outcomes your brand is looking for.However, if you’re looking to optimize lower-funnel metrics efficiently, the results are clear: Branded content and brand ads together make a huge difference for purchase intent.

What it means for marketers

Embrace a “surround sound” approach to efficiently boost purchase intent.

Using these two strategies in concert—not separately—is a cost-effective way to drive people to want to make a purchase. And as it turns out, purchase intent is the easiest way to make an impact. The biggest results uncovered in this research revolved around purchase intent, where, on average, mixed campaigns drove lift at 82% lower cost. Compare that to ad recall, where ad-only and branded content-only campaigns drove lift at only a 22% lower cost.

Keep your true advertising goal in mind.

Purchase intent is a valuable lower-funnel marketing metric, but it won’t be the campaign goal every single time. Stay true to your brand’s needs: If the goals are best served by upper-funnel outcomes like ad recall, look to the strategies that will actually drive these efficiently at scale. Additionally, consider how a measurement-first approach can help you build a strong brand.

Look to the auction for purchase intent.

If you’re interested in cost-effective purchase intent, here’s some good news. In a sample of the mixed campaigns from the meta-analysis, the Facebook auction often dynamically served both ads and branded content ads to audiences, with an average of 73% of people seeing both. This means there’s no need to set a manual budget split; you can let the auction deliver the right creative at the right time.


The Social Group™ is a Facebook Partner Agency and Blueprint certified. Contact our social media marketing team to help elevate and quantify your social media efforts. If you’re looking to expand into other digital marketing initiatives, reach out to our Search Engine Optimization and Google Ads team.

Source unless otherwise specified: Facebook data, 21 controlled multi-cell lift studies with CPG clients US, RU, PH, GB, ES, DE, CA, PE, BR, Mar 2018-Sep 2019