Wattpad: ‘Campaigns Work When They Feel As Native As Possible’

That teens have no attention span is a fallacy. Just ask Wattpad, a platform where people can write and share stories that they’ve written and solicit feedback from their community.

The storytelling platform boasts a community of 60 million monthly active users, mainly teens, young adults and millennials under 30, who spend more than 15 billion minutes engaging with Wattpad content each month – that’s more than 28,500 years of engagement every 30 days.

Authenticity stops thumbs, said Chris Stefanyk, Wattpad’s head of brand solutions, and that’s also what appeals to brand partners like GE, Coca-Cola and Mondelez looking to bask in the reflected glow.

“The pitch to brand is very much around engagement,” Stefanyk said. “It’s difficult to capture a substantial amount of this audience’s time, so brands want to try and reach them where they already are.”

The majority of the content on Wattpad is user-generated and serialized, with topics ranging from anime, action, science fiction and romance to fan fiction, poetry and the paranormal. Anyone over 13 can sign up for an account and a few writers on the platform have even achieved offline fame with book and movie deals.

But branded content does just as well as organic, as long as the brand makes an effort to fit in.

“Campaigns work when they feel as native as possible,” Stefanyk said.

During the 2015 holiday season, for example, Coca-Cola sponsored a series of letters to Santa written by Wattpad influencers featuring their nicest or their naughtiest characters. Users ate it up, spending more than 60 minutes on average with the content. Numerous people left comments on Coke’s Wattpad profile begging for the brand to create more bonus content.

And in a recent campaign to promote the young adult film “Wonder,” which is based on a book of the same name about a 10-year-old boy with facial deformities attending public school for the first time, Lionsgate worked with Wattpad to sponsor a writing contest about kindness. The winning entries were made into professional digital videos.

Although it’s not possible for Wattpad to tie engagement on the platform to soda or ticket sales, that’s also not the point. Engagement and time spent are the primary KPIs.

“Brands are spending billions of dollars to generate awareness, but we’re going a bit deeper than that – we’re generating real engagement,” Stefanyk said. “Sixty minutes with branded content – that’s a metric that really seems to amaze our brand partners.”

Wattpad also works with third-party providers, like Nielsen, to give its brand partners more typical metrics, like brand affinity and favorability. According to Stefanyk, Wattpad has seen 30% to 40% lifts for some brands in likelihood to recommend among engaged users.

Metrics like viewability, impressions and clicks are implied when users are reading a series of branded stories to completion and asking for more, he said.

Beyond sponsorships and branded content opportunities, Wattpad offers more traditional advertising options, including in-story ads and brief videos interspersed within stories, as well as basic targeting options mainly based on gender, age, geo and context.

But targeting by context rather than audience makes the most sense for Wattpad and for its brand partners, Stefanyk said.

Syfy, for example, recently did a takeover of the science fiction category for its show “The Magicians,” and Warner Bros. did the same for the horror category to promote its movie, “It.” Users interested in those topics make the most sense to target regardless of age, gender or other targeting parameters.

Every piece of content on Wattpad is tagged with detailed metadata for contextual targeting, and the company invests in machine learning to help with the labeling and the vetting for brand safety’s sake. Content that seems mature or risky isn’t monetized at all.

“We want the whole ad experience to be tied back to the storytelling,” Stefanyk said. “If we do that, the ads aren’t jarring and they’re with content that makes sense. Our audience is more than OK with that.”

This is the 15th installment of Home Screen, a series of profiles on mobile pubs and apps and the devs that make them (and hopefully make money on them). Read about home decor app Lux, teen voting app Wishbone, wedding planner platform The Knot, lip-syncing app Musical.ly, pop culture magazine Movie Pilot, news app News Republic, on-demand laundry app Cleanly, music streaming app LaMusica, P2P global shopping app Grabr, kid-friendly chat app Jet.me, driving app Dash, anonymous app Whisper, storytelling app Episode and weather app Poncho.

 

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