Winner: Spark, The Telegraph
The Telegraph’s branded content division, Spark, successfully evolved its offering after the publisher’s decision in late 2018 to switch its strategic focus from delivering mass reach to increasing its paying subscriber base.
As its award-winning entry put it: "Spark would only be able to exist within The Telegraph’s new ‘reader-first’ strategy if it also put readers first – in everything it produced and in the way it measured success."
To enhance the paying reader’s experience, the Spark team set several ambitions. These included: to champion quality journalism; to focus on brand effectiveness, rather than media efficiency; and to drive long-term, sustainable revenue growth.
By developing "metrics that matter", such as long dwell times and multiple page views from known users in the UK, Spark was able to create branded content that fitted with the Telegraph’s editorial strategy.
Spark secured more than 80 multimedia branded content partnerships across a range of categories, including business (Lloyds, NatWest, Vodafone) and sport (IBM, Red Bull, Skoda, Visa), that worked for readers and brands alike.
The content studio also played a leading role in supporting the launch of Telegraph Women's Sport initiative as it won the involvement of 11 brands and generated more than £1m in incremental partner revenue.
Spark content had an impressive average dwell time of more than two minutes and, across the 80 campaigns, brand consideration rose by an average of 22%.
Significantly, the team cut 20% of branded content that didn’t support the Telegraph’s reader-first ambition but managed to keep total revenue and – critically – profit flat year on year.
The Bridge Studio, News UK
This one-stop shop is the access point for all News UK’s brands, including The Sun, The Times and Wireless Group, and claims to have grown 26% last year as it "puts the science of emotion at the heart of everything it does". Spearheaded by Sachini Imbuldeniya, creative director, The Bridge Studio built a diverse team from different backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations to produce work in print, digital, social, video and more. More than 60% of the commissioned photography and illustration artwork came from BAME and LGBT+ artists – a commitment that helped this entry be highly commended by the judges.
BBC Storyworks, BBC Global News
The Studio, Hearst UK
Imagine, Immediate Media