Wednesday 17 April 2013

Content is dead. Long live content

‘Content is king’. It’s a bit cliché now, but truer words have never been spoken in the Land of Ad.

Content’s supreme rule reveals a maturation of our industry, but it’s nothing new. Storytellers have shaped content since the beginning of time to affect behaviour and teach their audiences how to act.

For a long time advertising had a deservedly bad reputation. If an advert didn't include a head-jamming jingle, then it was probably trying to guilt you into buying things.

Buy this mouthwash or you'll have bad breath and no friends. Buy this car or your neighbour will think you're a communist. Buy this baby food or you'll be a bad mother.

It was evil manipulative stuff. The sad thing is that we still see these degenerate ads pollute our lives today.

Content is dead!

Luckily, they're becoming increasingly rare, and we've moved on to content driven ads that engage, inspire and entertain our audiences.

But why have we crowned content as our king? The simple answer is: Because content is the vehicle that we use to evoke emotion.

Make them laugh, make them cry. This is your bread and butter as a creative. This is the product your agency sells to its clients. This is the power you have at your fingertips. It’s what should stir your creative soul and get you excited. It has the ability to radically change the world. BAM!

Make them laugh.

So, why do we go out of our way to create advertising with content that evokes emotion? Surely not for some douchey Kevin Roberts-esque reasons like love, deeper connections, or stronger relationships, right?

Well kind of, but that waxing lyrical language only works like a Jedi mind trick. It may satisfy some weak-minded marketing manager, who’s distracted by a free lunch and your shiny boardroom. But, more likely than not, when they go back to their hard-nosed decision makers – they’ll get laughed out the room.

Make them cry.

We actually do it because it’s a bloody effective way for your brand or message to be remembered. And not remembered by using ugly tactics like jingles or guilt that only result in your brand being disliked, but with stories that make the brand not simply remembered but likeable.

I've worked on a client that always received exceptional results in the research with its awareness metrics, but when we dug a little deeper it turned out it was being remembered for all the wrong things.

Enter the power of storytelling. Storytellers, for time immemorial, have implanted emotion into fables, nursery rhymes, legends, myths and parables. They weren’t doing it to try and sell more widgets. They absolutely needed their audience to remember their stories as a matter of life or death.

In advertising the consequences aren't so fatal, but without memory there is nothing. Even in the new digital world, unless the creative execution directly places the audience in a buying situation, or drastically reduces the barriers to sale (Amazon 1-click), then it’s still relying on memory. And if it’s relying on memory then it’s relying on content.

So, in a sense, Kevin Roberts is right, we are actually building deeper connections with our audiences, but not like a father son fishing trip, or a romantic getaway with your wife, rather the nodes in your brain, through emotional content, are being wired to create memory structures. Resulting in easy retrieval the next time you are looking to buy.

Long live content!

By Christopher Ott

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