April 17, 2013
How a Content First approach to brand communications is creating more engagement
By Antony Young, CEO Mindshare North America
The 30 second ad has served us well as the staple for awareness building and driving brand familiarity. However, the speed at which media is being viewed across multiple devices; the increasing scale and influence of social platforms; and how consumers now more than ever are dictating where, when and what media they choose to consumer is causing us to re-think how brands need to engage them.
That’s why I think that one of the most important ideas that agencies will have to adopt is a Content First approach to media. If our role is to figure out how best to influence consumers, then we have to take a more strategic perspective on where to deliver ads as well as what type of content and content formats are best placed to meet brand communication goals.
Using Longer Form Content To Drive Reappraisal
When Royal Caribbean looked to get first time cruisers to book, this presented them some real challenges. A 30-second spot alone would not be enough to overcome all the misconceptions about cruises with which the brand needed to content. Long form story telling was necessary to draw the consumer into the true onboard experience and shift consideration and reshape perceptions. So Royal Caribbean agreed to develop two short films shot on their flagship “Allure of the Seas: ship featuring Jenny McCarthy and James Brolin. The storyline incorporated their amenities onboard and gave viewers a more entertaining and organic view of the onboard experience.
Shorter Form Commercials Are Increasingly becoming As Important
With 1 in 3 digital minutes now spent on a mobile device, when advertising a brand there’s a fine line between annoyance and acceptance that needs to be managed. During College Basketball’s March Madness, the NCAA pushed out via Twitter live video game highlights of plays as they took place. Followers could click on to the tweeted link that ran 5 second AT&T spots before the content. A thirty or fifteen second spot would have certainly been a turn-off, but a short 5 second spot close up, seemed an acceptable trade for real time content in providing a positive consumer experience for basketball fans. A Content First strategy ensures the consumer experience decides the messaging formats.
Content is About Really Putting the Consumer First
In truth, while we in the ad industry talk about putting consumers first, the reality is that creating ads is really about putting the brand at the center. There’s nothing wrong with that. Content, however, plays a different role, in that rather than being focused on brand wants, it is targeted to consumer needs…for information, entertainment, expertise, etc.
HSBC’s Commercial Banking group wanted to attract small to mid-size companies seeking to expand their business internationally. Business without Borders – an online platform was created for businesses looking to expand outside of the U.S.
With HSBC we worked with the The Wall Street Journal, Economist Intelligence Unit and Bloomberg to curate business tools, global trends articles, and market analysis and complemented it with relevant financial information and resources. LinkedIn provided an additional platform to connect this content to the right people, and activate a community of business professionals.
Business without Borders has become a meeting place where members develop relationships and share their experiences as part of the global economy.
In this case, thinking Content First helped to create utility, offer expert advice and help business professionals, exactly the brand proposition that HSBC are looking to establish. That would have been difficult to achieve with traditional advertising.
Technology is fueling numerous new content opportunities
Some evolving technologies are helping us to create more powerful and relevant advertising opportunities. When SAP tweeted links to New York Times content they felt was relevant to their CXO followers , SAP through a technology called Ricochet was able to own all the display ad positions around these articles on the NY Times web page. This not only provided branding of valuable content to their customer, but click through rates that tracked 14 times higher than their response norms.
One of the important pay outs in a Content First strategy is driving earned media. It’s a universal truth that consumers are going to be more likely to share content than ads. I really loved how Unilever teamed up with AOL and MAKERS Founder and Executive Producer Dyllan McGee to develop its Makers.com program for facial skincare brand Simple. Simple’s goal was to celebrate women whose authenticity, ideals and pioneering spirit inspire others every day. AOL helped develop a video platform to produce and share some 160 amazing stories of empowering and inspirational women that helped to make America … from Hillary Clinton to Hope Solo and Ellen DeGeneres. The content program, TV special on PBS and surrounding events for the program drove advocacy amongst opinion formers, delivered this at scale generating over 200 million earned impressions via editorial, social mentions and raging endorsements from top beauty magazine editors to influential bloggers.
Data is Creating Adaptive Content Marketing Opportunities
We are seeing examples of how marketers are adapting their messaging by combining data and creativity. Take what The Home Depot is doing with The Weather Channel. Tapping the Home Depot banner on the Weather Channel’s mobile app sends you to their mobile ecommerce site, which dynamically showcases products extracting weather conditions and location data of the user. Very cool.
Today’s crowded market creates more obstacles than ever before for advertisers, making it an increasingly difficult task to stand out and be heard. The answer doesn’t start in the boardroom with a handful of executives creating an ad that is then pushed out. It starts in the world, with a single consumer looking for information and entertainment, and a brand that is listening.
[An edited version appeared in Adage.com http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/30-ad-a/240857/]