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Q&A with 'Elevate' Trail Leader, Digital Media Expert Fara Warner

As marketers move deeper into brand-funded content, how are they proving that their efforts are driving an increase in revenue for the brand’s core businesses?

Trail 3 at Elevate will focus on answering the question of how marketers evaluate success, as well as shine a light on how brands think about predictive modeling vs. post-campaign measurement. Leading Trail 3 will be award winning journalist and digital media expert Fara Warner.

We caught up with Warner to key into her expertise and discuss what's in store for Elevate attendees set to embark on the Measuring Success trail:

How and why did you begin writing with a focus on digital media and storytelling?

I have been covering marketing and media for more than 30 years. At The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company, I covered the first Internet boom and its affect on brands and advertising. The intersection between publishing and advertising has always interested me as we depend heavily on each other to reach audiences. The growth of using journalistic methods to tell brand's stories--what has evolved into branded content--has interested me from my first sponsored program at Aol (This Built America) through to my work at WSJ. Custom Studios leading a team of creatives that worked on campaigns such as Cocainenomics for Netflix and Defy Hunger Together for MINI USA.

In what ways do brands and their partners get measurement wrong? In what ways do they get it right?

One key insight from my research is that brands don't have a great deal of trust in the measurements they receive from partners, be they agencies, publishers or the platforms. This lack of trust comes from a lack of standardization on what metrics matter in branded content. They also point out that everyone in the chain of data has a reason to make themselves look good from the data. But brands truly need clear, transparent data to make decisions either before, during or after campaigns.

What do you hope the Elevate audience will learn from this session? What real-world business applications might they be able to employ?

I'd love to see a working group evolve out of this session to determine what metrics are crucial for branded content--and what metrics we can stop looking at or at least reduce our dependency on them. I think a focus on knowledge from data instead of just data for data sake is also a critical discussion we need to have. Finally, how do we make better use of technology to understand how audiences engage, feel and think about the branded content we produce.

How does an event like Elevate help stoke conversations like this?

By putting all the players in a room together to talk about tough issues, we get collaboration instead of competition. Elevate offers a safe space to have these conversations where we can be honest and transparent about the challenges facing branded content. I think we all love this sector of advertising. We love the creativity and imagination. But to keep it moving forward we have to clear metrics that truly measure if it's engaging with real people, not impressions, page views and click through rates.


About Fara Warner

Fara Warner has worked in every storytelling medium from traditional print, books, and digital publishing to virtual reality films throughout her three-decade journalism career. She is an award-winning author and journalist specializing in the art and science of storytelling in the digital age, new business models for journalism, and the critical need for diversity in creative teams and women’s growing economic and social power. In the past decade, she has led teams of developers, designers, writers, and editors at organizations including The Wall Street Journal and Aol Inc. She is a leadership ambassador for Take The Lead, a nonprofit focused on gender equity and pay parity and is the co-lead in the inaugural cohort “50 Women Can Change The World in Journalism.” She has served as the vice president and global editorial director of custom content at Dow Jones & Company, where she helped lead a team that grew branded content revenue from $14 million to $60 million in three years. She was the editorial director of Aol Inc.’s Tech, Business and Entertainment Group, overseeing editorial strategy and teams for leading finance and technology sites, including DailyFinance, TechCrunch, and Engadget. At Aol, she created and produced the year-long program, This Built America, that explored through documentary video, photography and narrative journalism the resurgence of American manufacturing in the 21st century.She is the author of the best-selling business book, “The Power of the Purse: How Smart Companies Are Adapting to the World’s Most Important Consumers—Women.” She is the recipient of the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professorship at the University of Michigan where she taught digital storytelling. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and was a 2005-2006 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. She lives in West Shokan, N.Y. and New York City.

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