The relationship between advertising and content: part II

Faris Yakob, Head of Digital Strategy at McCann Erikson New York, discusses the democratistation of content (PDF) in Contagious Magazine. And while what he has to say about business models is interesting, it was the final paragraph that really caught my eye:

“Advertising is about selling products – content is about, well, anything that makes people voluntarily spend time with it. This suggests we needs to take a long hard look at what we want ‘advertising’ to be. Either we continue to fund other people’s content or we begin to shift the emphasis in the industry. If we spent 80% of budgets on production, instead of using it to buy space, just imagine what kind of content we could create.”

I touched on similar themes in an earlier post about the relationship between advertising and content.

The Internet is, among other things, a huge, low-cost content distribution network. Content production has been democratised, every one (and soon every thing) is a media outlet.

In a world of proliferating content, those people, organisations and brands who manage their personal media output more effectively will have an advantage.

Actually, many brands have been doing this for some time, using agencies rather than broadcasters to create short-form ‘viral content’ which they then distribute on the web. That this model hasn’t been applied to older and more diverse demographics is probably a consequence of Internet usage and uptake. However, that’s changing, BBH’s Metrotwin (on which I did some work), and the Howie’s DoLecture Series (on which I didn’t), are two examples of brands creating content with agencies, cutting out the cost of the middle-man, and going straight to their audience.

Creating quality content takes time, effort and money, and there are some brands that will find it hard to create compelling content. In addition, as audiences fragment, its not guaranteed that the content they create will find a sufficiently large audience to offer an ROI (though the quality of the audience may be much better.)

So while the old relationship between advertising and content isn’t going away any time soon, things are changing. In the future, brands and agencies will have to think more about creating content and experiences that engage the audiences they want to talk to, rather than just buying space around other people’s media. After all, as Faris rightly points out, the biggest websites and most expensive short films are still considerably cheaper than prime time TV slots, and a site like Metrotwin is still there long after most campaigns are done and dusted.

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