The Race to Leverage Content: The Media Perspective

The Race to Leverage Content: The Media Perspective

Adrián Ruiz-Mediavilla, Marketing Director at Viacom International Media Networks, was invited to speak recently at ESCP Business School’s London Campus. He shared key insights on current challenges faced by the industry.

The event took place on 9th July, 2015 and brought together industry practitioners and participants of the Executive Master in Marketing and Creativity.

The Media Perspective

The talk began with an example of how a piece of media can inadvertently become an advert for a specific commodity therein. Adrián cited the trailer for the 1986 movie Top Gun, in which Tom Cruise was seen wearing a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. In the wake of the promo and the subsequent film, Ray-Ban sales jumped by 40%. The Ray-Bans were product placement; the actual advertiser was the US Air Force!

Why are we talking about brands and content?

According to a study produced by Havas, the public would most likely not notice if three quarters of brands disappeared – primarily because of lack of relevance. Digital is far newer, but Google admits that 56% of the banners they sell are unseen. So where does that leave the remaining 44%? Ad block software usage grew by nearly 70% between June 2013 and June 2014, growth that is driven by young internet users. 41% of 18- to 29-year-olds polled said they use ad blockers, and this number is constantly rising – effectively over time cancelling out the remaining 44%.

Mobile advertising is an option; however, the next version of Safari will let users block ads on iPhones and iPads via an Apple-certified ad blocker system. Apple’s decision to allow this is motivated by the impending release of i Ad -Apple’s own advertising platform, which will serve adverts and reach an audience of almost a billion Apple users.

The implications are huge: 90% of Google‘s revenues come from advertising. Apple’s tactics will reduce their potential reach by roughly 50%.

What seems to be the answer is content: consumers react better to and even welcome quality brand content because it is seen as far less intrusive and disruptive than traditional advertising. In 2012 The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity even introduced a new category, Best Branded Content and Entertainment.

But who should be taking on the responsibility of creating content? Creative agencies, media agencies, PR firms, or the brands themselves? And who is actually doing the best job currently? The jury is still out on this: for two years in a row, the Cannes Festival of Creativity could not find anyone to whom the Grand Prix should be awarded.

Should advertising companies create content? Or should content companies create advertising?

Adrián considered that the majority of both advertising and content can be described as architecture: some is great, some is really bad, but most of it is indistinguishable. The reality is that creating good advertising is incredibly hard. A good example can be found with the 2015 Super Bowl, one of – if not the – highest profile advertising opportunity in the USA. Insurance Company Nationwide, produced an expensive ad, a story of a cute kid who died. The advert backfired so spectacularly that Nationwide were forced to issue a statement saying the spot was meant “to start a conversation, not sell insurance.” The advert inevitably became the subject of an internet meme, and an advertising executive left the company no longer after.

Hitting the spot with advertising is tough, but so is creating the right content. Adrián cited two examples of content which missed their mark: the 1990s Batman franchise failing despite the casting of George Clooney in the lead role, all because of a misjudged costume design; and the Friends spin-off series Joey, which was cancelled after two seasons despite starring one of the highest paid actors in television, Matt Le Blanc, in a reprise of his hugely popular Friends character.

What is the main role of advertising?

Creating quality, engaging advertising and content is incredibly difficult, but even more so if it is forgotten that despite the end goal of both being the same (increased sales) they are very different beasts: advertising exists to also create awareness, consideration and brand attribution, whereas content is about entertainment, storytelling and ratings.

The biggest mission of advertising is to increase sale ability: ‘sell’ and ‘entertain’ are opposite, in fact. You would not probably go for a drink with a guy who is trying to sell you a car. It is complicated to bring the two together, and the most likely outcome is brands who are trying to sell and publishers who try to entertain.

The difference is that average advertising is easier to get away with than average content, primarily because they work in a completely opposite way. You have got an ad, you buy media, you push it. Even if it is as poorly judged as the Nationwide Insurance Super Bowl promo, you are going to create some awareness.

The issue with content is that works on the opposite way: You create a piece of content, and it has to be outstanding. Anything less means people will never seek it out.

When – if ever – does advertising become content?

It happens when the earned reach is bigger than the paid reach. When people are actively looking to consume your advertising, that is when becomes content. Good branded content is content you would watch in spite of – not because of – the brand.

If you would like to uncover more case studies and key insights shared by Adrián Ruiz Mediavilla his full presentation and its highlights will be available online soon.

Useful links:

MSc in Marketing & Creativity
Creative London Summer Course