WHAT SHAPE IS YOUR CONTENT?

We’re all sick to death of Grandma screaming from her easy chair about the death of the thirty-second ad spot. We get it Grandma, stop being so dramatic! People hate interruptive advertising and millenials are immune to advertiser’s overt tactics and blah blah blah. But now, how should brands best get their message across? People still buy stuff, and they still want to know what to buy, they just don’t want it to interrupt them watching The Only Way Is Essex. We’ve talked about the shift towards quality in branded content but this time we want to talk about platform, length and dissemination of this quality gear. What we know is that television is no longer the incredibly effective transmitter it once was and that we need something in-between a suppository that quickly releases information straight into the anus and a Ben Hur length feature (sponsored by Wonga.)

UNITED STATES - Circa 1960s:  Smiling Young Couple Both Sitting On A Sofa With A Glass Of Beer In Thier Hands Watching A Portable Tv Thats Sitting On A Stool In The Living Room.  (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)

(Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)

So, what should the media planners of the future do from their antiseptic spheres high above the burning citadels? TV campaigns will still exist in the future, perhaps with a few longer form commercials or with the lightning fast pre-roll style advertising we know from YouTube. However it is a fairly safe bet that TV commercials will no longer be the highest echelon of the marketing budget. Huge brands such as Costa had already ditched the TV spot back in 2012 and this hasn’t stopped them becoming the biggest coffee chain in the UK (yeah eff you Starbucks, we have our own capitalist overlords.) As our pal Sophie from Berlin based creative shop ‘The Adventures Of’ says,

“The spray and pray approach to advertising is over, because a 30” TV spot does not translate effectively when copied and pasted into various channels. It does not mean the TV spot necessarily dies, it means it’s no longer at the top of the food chain.”

So, what shape should this new form of advertising take?

HOW IT MOVES

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Well, it’s already coagulating in the digital petree-dish. Super-smart future man Matt Locke of StoryThings says a CleverThing when he points out that ‘circulation creates scale’ and whereas in the past this circulation was dictated by the media planners buying up the airtime/billboards/radio-spots, now that viewers can choose where and how they watch, a lot of circulation is created by the user. PANIC.

You can chuck all the money in the world at an ad spot and it can make very little impact now, as Super Bowl advertisers are finding to their sorrow. (The once crème d la crème of primetime ad spots is now shown to have little effect on sales.) Instead it is often the job of the consumer to create the scale. Only it’s not their job, they can do whatever the heck they like, so why would they share your dumb advert? Why, for selfish reasons of course! People tend to share information that reflects well on themselves and echoes their own identities and beliefs. That’s why we post so much slaughterhouse footage and pornography. We are all saying something about who we are with what we choose to spread and share. This changes the shape of the content in that, instead of just thinking about what you want to say about your brand, you also have to think about what your consumer wants to say about themselves, and how they want to say it. An informative video? A new band? A picture on instagram?

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All this consumer generated scale accounts for some of the huge traction ethical brands have gained in recent years; it reflects well on the consumer when they share an article/video/picture of an independent, ethically minded brand. However this also means that the thirty-second boundary on commercial content is completely dissolved; it can be any length as long as it holds the attention of those who identify with and spread it. There are many ways to tell a story; the only stipulation we make is that it is a story worth hearing.

HOW IT WORKS

With this in mind it becomes flipping obvious why a thirty second commercial is of less use to a brand than it once was. No one is going to share that stuff! A commercial now needs to play into part of a bigger, more interesting story than can be conveyed in just thirty seconds. For example, Always’ amazing “Run Like a Girl’ campaign is a great illustration of how integrated long and short form content across different platforms can work together without there being a gap in quality between digital and television; it’s cohesive and coherent across all platforms, from the one minute TV commercial to the three and a half minute web video and all in-between.

The women’s rights slant makes it perfect for consumer circulation on social media platforms, creating a reach and scale that goes way beyond the thirty second ad-spot. By sharing a not totally contentious but right-on message like “women are people too” instead of “our pads are really absorbent’ they are giving consumers something to latch on to and identify with. The fact that it’s three and a half minutes in length is neither here nor there; it is just as long as it needs to be to get its point across and tell the full story. Not being married to a specific length helps the content reach much further and say much more, with the longer form web video clocking up 80 million views worldwide.

DON’T RELY ON JUST THE CONSUMER

So we’ve talked about consumers shaping and spreading content, but what about the brands? They still need agency in this process of digital dissemination. Once a brand have something of value to give their audience, it is important not just to fling it at them and pray they’ll share it. Creatives shudder when a client mentions the word “viral’ as there is just no way of predicting what will take off and what won’t.

Data capture is a great way of shaping the approach this digital dissemination takes. We’re seeing more and more brands who use data to tailor a softly, softly approach to putting their content out there. Seeding was once bit of a blunt tool in content dissemination, with the bottom line being PLASTER ADVERTS ON THE SITE THAT YOU KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS USE. Now it is a matter of showing audiences who you are as a brand and what you believe in. before showing them what you have to sell. Going straight to the product is like showing someone your *insert appropriate sexual organ* even before you’ve begun the first date, it’s just skipping too many steps. And from our experience people hate that. That’s why we’re banned from so many restaurants.

For example Burberry do this very well. They start off with an offer of, “oh hey, here’s this new band we found, we made them this video, want to see?” Then a few weeks later maybe a little nudge towards some different cultural content, then maybe an interesting looking banner on another page, only then, maybe three weeks after that initial engagement will the viewer see a blatant product endorsement on their browser.

All of those previous quality, entertaining, high-value interactions didn’t feel like ads or look like ads. They felt and looked like entertainment with interest, and they were scattered across the digital platforms in a way that made them feel like a natural extension of the consumer’s normal browsing habits. By the time the viewer comes to the product they know that the brand is one that they could align themselves with.

DOING MORE WITH LESS

Our main point on the shaping of content would be not to create content for content’s sake; the idea that more videos/tweets/facebook posts equals better is just plain wrong. If none of them go any deeper than being just noise for the consumer to tune out of, they are doing nothing for your brand.

Content would benefit by being less and better rather than often and ill thought out. Targeted, strategized and succinct content which offers a clear value, benefit or interest to the viewer, disseminated cleverly is the only thing brands should be putting out. That’s why cats are doing so well on the internet; they are strategic mother fuckers.

As Sophie from Adventures Of puts it it’s really about giving people what they want, not trying to tell them what that is. The future is “Audience led, or community led advertising. It’s simply about bringing together the relevant micro communities first, then creating and testing continuously your ideas and messages, then scaling the best creative against your key community. “

In our next blog we’re going to look at how this actually works from a practical shooting point of view so keep your hams basted and your ears pricked.