Native advertising and branded content will continue to be a vital way of building long-lasting relationships with brands, a Meredith executive believes, but the nature of those bonds and the material they create are changing.

“Certainly a few years ago, native was the sexiest thing in the playbook that we could roll out,” mused Will Roth, vice president, head of content and strategy at Meredith Corporation, during the recent FIPP World Media Congress. “Is that still the case? Maybe not.

“The way that I see native now, especially in America, it is still a very central and important part of any direct offering brought to an advertiser,” he continued. “The reason being [that] if you have an interest in telling a story organically with certain key tenets of your own proprietary messages, you really have to partner with a studio like Foundry to get that message the way you want it.”

Foundry, Meredith’s branded content shop which Roth heads, has a staff of 75 working across 40 editorial brands – and the pressure is on after the magazine publisher, and owner of titles including People, Better Homes & Gardens and Food & Wine, announced plans to cut 180 jobs after registering a $234 million loss in the 12 months to 30 June.

But Roth has put in place a three-step plan¬ to ensure the content Foundry produces for brands is suitable for the times, both in terms of production restrictions and audience preferences.

One of these is to understand how, in the context of COVID-19, branded content marketers, accustomed to a certain level of funding often not granted to their editorial counterparts, must readjust their expectations. So, no more flying off to exotic locations to shoot a 90-second mini documentary.

Instead, Roth is “leaning in” to familiar formats, but with a new approach. Take influencer marketing: not only do advertisers require a “compelling story” from their content creators, but more than likely they will need them to be capable of shooting that content themselves.

Clients are strongly encouraged to join virtual production shoots, so they can “participate in shot-by-shot decision-making”, and Roth believes this arms-length approach is resulting in a more “authentic” quality of content.

“What’s been so reassuring for us is that the content we’ve produced over the last six to eight months has felt extremely authentic and organic. You actually get more comfortable talent experiences when you don’t have a giant production team standing behind a camera,” he said.

For more on the future of branded content, read WARC’s report: Meredith finds a new role for branded content during COVID-19.

Sourced from WARC