Co-Branded Content: 5 Questions With Hartford Funds CMO Martin Swanson


Hartford Funds Bloomberg Media native ad campaign

The Digital Content NewFronts ad sales presentations are now underway in New York, with news outlets such as Bloomberg making the news by powering a streaming news service for Twitter later this year.

In addition to straightforward ad buys, Bloomberg is also talking up its native content unit, Bloomberg Media Studios, which creates opportunities for brands to align with its own content and channels to amplify their messaging.

Case in point: Hartford Funds, a leading U.S. asset manager that has been a longstanding partner of Bloomberg. Together they’re rewriting the marketing playbook typically used by financial services firms by pioneering a real-time branded content partnership.

Instead of campaigns tied to life milestones—marriage, home-buying, kids, empty nesters, accidents, aging, retirement, estate planning—Hartford is sponsoring “human-centric investing insights” and choosing meaningful moments of engagement tied to news events in which to promote them.

Hartford Funds human-centric investing

The native advertising campaign brings Hartford’s brand (plus its insights, people and perspectives) into contextually relevant news, such as market-moving events like Brexit or the French election, identifying key events as tentpole moments that directly affect the markets and what people do with their money. Hartford provides the insights; Bloomberg’s team suggests key moments and opportunities and helps produce the related formats and channels to deliver those insights.

The partnership launched last year with a focus on creating content and moments around the U.S. presidential election, with custom content pieces such as this research-driven infographic:

Hartford Funds Bloomberg Media native ad campaign


The 2017 campaign kicked off on April 23rd with 11 co-branded pieces of content that coincided with the volatile French election. Sponsored content not only highlights the Hartford brand but also may include a quote, such as this example featuring John Diehl, SVP of Strategic Markets:

Hartford Funds native advertising Bloomberg French election 2017

The custom digital content is promoted on across desktop, mobile and tablets, and amplified via Bloomberg’s social media and Outbrain syndicated feeds. In addition to run-of-site across, strategic homepage takeovers will pop up on Bloomberg throughout the year.

Print ads are also part of the mix, with “Spreadvertorials” (custom content pages with adjacent brand ads) appearing in three issues of the bi-monthly Bloomberg Markets magazine.

Hartford x Bloomberg Markets magazine sponsored content

New this year, Hartford is sponsoring Bloomberg’s Masters in Business podcast with Barry Ritholtz and will get its own four-part custom branded podcast (produced with Bloomberg’s help) that will launch in the fourth quarter.

For insights on the partnership and making real-time content marketing newsworthy and relevant, brandchannel spoke with Hartford Chief Marketing Officer Martin Swanson.

bc: Why did you decide to pursue real-time news events—instead of evergreen life events—as hooks for your content marketing?

Marty Swanson, CMO, Hartford FundsMartin Swanson (right): We’ve seen from historical data that the more relevant and timely we can be with our insights, the more engagement we can drive with our brand and content. Given that learning, we saw the opportunity to cut through the clutter of “typical” financial content, and instead offer something smart and insightful that fits our brand.

BC: What did you learn during your first branded content campaign with Bloomberg Media?

Swanson: While Bloomberg has been a longstanding partner of Hartford Funds, last year we decided to take a different tack to begin building our brand in a highly differentiated manner. The campaign revolved around a “core” built on the series of native market moving moments written by Bloomberg, focusing on anything from Brexit to the presidential election to the Fed raising interest rates. We then supported that core with a wide range of media such as homepage takeovers, pre-roll, radio and more.

The results of the first campaign with Bloomberg’s content studio showed that the market moving moments program drove more than 130,000 page views of the content, with an average of over two minutes spent with each piece.

BC: For your 2017 campaign, why are you adding a podcast to the mix?

Swanson: We recently ran a survey in which we saw huge growth in podcast listenership among FAs (financial advisers). Given the data and the fact that we have such a robust content program to support the brand, adding a podcast to this year’s program made all the sense in the world.

We saw so much success last year that we aren’t looking to remake the wheel. We’ll continue with a similar media mix, with a slight expansion in our radio buy, the new podcast program and some “doubling down” with a few digital aspects of the buy that we saw perform particularly well. Otherwise, it’s all about bringing fresh new insights to FAs that help them build better relationships with their clients—which is the core promise of our brand.

bc: What will they do to make this podcast stand out in the ocean of podcasts out there?

Swanson: While podcasts might be gaining listenership, we haven’t necessarily seen a huge amount of financial brands building these types of programs for advisors. Our in-house “human-centric investing” podcast has already started to see traction as a result.

Furthermore, we really are believers that the strength of the content paired with the Bloomberg brand is what wins the day—and given what we’re planning, we’re feeling confident about the program.

BC: In terms of brand safety, how are you pegging to specific news events, which always have the potential to turn negative?

Swanson: We’re really leaning on Bloomberg for this. Given all of the data they can bring to bear, and how plugged in they are to the news cycle, their team offers a lot of insight into which moments are likely to “move” the market, the French election being no exception, given the run-up we saw in the markets the day following the event.

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