Our content obsession… and why we should be MORE obsessed

Our content obsession… and why we need to be MORE obsessed

Content might be the buzzword for now, but it’s nothing new…

Content might be the buzzword for now, but it’s nothing new – it’s just spread across more platforms.

Just last weekend as I sat watching TV and reading the Sunday papers, it occurred to me that the world is obsessing about ‘content’ these days. Everyone seems to be talking about it like it’s a new concept, but in reality it’s a case of the Emperor’s new clothes.

Content has been around since the ad industry started telling people what to buy and where to buy it, and flicking through the pages of the paper and keeping one eye on the TV, I started to think ‘what’s the difference?’

There are a couple of ads that have caught my eye recently. The Three network is well respected and known for producing off-the-wall TV commercials and the success of #DancePonyDance a few years ago proves this.

The new ad from Three uses those iconic puppet superstars The Muppets to drive the #MakeItRight hashtag. The ad itself is a simple tale of a Muppet who leaves home to make it in the big city only to struggle to find his feet. The turning point seems to come when he is at his lowest and remembers the final words from his “human” parents as he leaves home. From this point, our Muppet hero makes it his duty to #makeitright whenever he sees someone who needs help. It’s a great, feel-good ad and it’s all neatly wrapped up in a 1-minute TV spot set to East 17’s much-loved ‘It’s Alright’. Here’s a slightly extended version;

But it’s what Three are doing away from the TV ad that really drives the success of the campaign and the brand. A number of engaging, entertaining short edits are littered around the Three YouTube channel, the Facebook page is reskinned and features Muppet-based #makeitright content. Twitter follows suit, with a host of competitions and content driven by the #makeitright hashtag, pointing out the USPs of the network (roaming costs, signal strength and the like) in a fun, entertaining way and giving away phone-related kit that will help the social audience #makeitright.

Gone are the days when the success of a brand’s commercial was guaranteed simply by buying a 1-minute spot around the X Factor final (although this is still probably the most expensive ad spend around). Brands are starting to realise that they need to have multiple touch-points with their consumers during their purchasing decisions to help them along the way. Nobody likes to be “sold” to, but we are happy to consume content.

The other ad that’s caught my attention of late is the ‘scarf’ commercial from Nationwide. This tracks the journey of a scarf passed down from father to son. Designed with one purpose in mind – to tug on the audience’s heart strings – the ad does its job in the arena for which it was devised, but beyond the ad there’s no coherence to the campaign. There’s no overarching content strategy and the ad sits within its own ‘TV advertising’ silo while the brand itself gets on with telling us about ISAs and handling consumer queries.

Crucially, Nationwide’s #OnYourSide hashtag is rarely used by Nationwide itself, instead it’s been hijacked by critics of the brand to get their point across.

Using the various channels to disseminate your brand message is crucial but it’s also more crucial to make sure that message is aligned. You can’t say one thing on TV, one thing on Twitter, and something else on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube any more. What you can do is engage in multiple, differing conversations about different aspects of your brand, but you still have to make sure they‘re aligned or the consumer will see a schizophrenic version of the message you THINK you’re putting out there.

The buzz of ‘content’ will ultimately die down – the naysayers are already looking for another buzzword to nail their colours to – but content will continue to shape the way we speak and engage with our consumers. The sheer volume of outlets to speak to consumers will only grow, but it’s about keeping the conversation going and making it a conversation in the truest sense, rather than a series of differing and at worst contradictory missives to your audience.

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