What brands need to learn about content creation

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By Steve Ackerman, Managing Director at Somethin’ Else and judge at the World Media Awards                                                                                                                                              As a judge for the World Media Awards, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we create and consume content. Life was easy in the old days. A few TV channels, a small number of radio stations and a selection of newspapers meant that the battle for the attention of viewers, listeners and readers could be understood in simple terms.

Then came the Internet, and with it, the rise of content. Brands discovered the old rules of advertising no longer applied.

Setting down a media plan used to be straightforward, as was finding an ad agency, but in a world of multiple platforms and devices that are on 24-7, creating a beautiful TV spot or billboard poster isn’t enough.

Content has become the marketing buzzword, but brands are still struggling to understand what content to create, where to put it and how to get audiences to engage with it.

The landscape is complicated by the fact that marketers are fighting against the behemoths of content in the battle for eyes and ears.

I’m talking about the companies who’ve been creating content for decades and understand how to connect with and entertain an audience and keep them coming back.

Broadcasters and publishers are the masters of the content universe; what companies such as The BBC, MBC, The Economist or Star TV have always understood is how to create products that people come back to day after day or week after week.

The right content strategy

They know how to create a habit in an audience and, through the power of that habit, build an ongoing relationship for their brands.

In the marketing world, the approach has often been the opposite. It tends to be about creating a campaign that gains a lot of attention in a short space of time to build brand recognition and then repeat it every now and then to remind consumers of the brand.

That might explain why, for many marketers, there is a struggle to understand content and to identify the right agencies and partners to create it with.

Ad agencies are brilliant at creating 30 second spots or beautiful posters that communicate a marketing message succinctly and quickly. Developing ongoing content that repeats week after week is a different skill and creative approach.

It’s a mindset that few ad agencies have (even though they all have a ‘content team’). Part of the problem is that they’ve failed to learn from the real experts of content – the broadcasters, publishers and production companies.

Developing a habit with an audience is something that is still evolving (look at how Netflix’s ‘binge’ approach has changed the game) but is at the heart of successful content.

Understanding the rules of engagement

Ongoing, repeatable online video series, podcasts, social media entertainment or TV shows are designed to keep the audience coming back for more, whether that is daily or, in some cases, even hourly.

Think about the radio show you tune into every day, or the last TV or podcast series you downloaded, or the website you visit every morning. Those content creators have placed themselves at the heart of your content habit. The challenge is for brands to do the same.

In fact, brands have the potential to be masters of content. The marketing budget of Pepsi far outstrips the programme commissioning budget of most TV networks. So the resource is there; now the mindset needs to follow – the mindset that aims to place the brand within a consumer’s daily content habit.

That means learning from the experts in the information and entertainment arena and using the agencies and production companies who are already excelling in these spaces – companies who do not necessarily usually feature in the advertising sector.

For audiences, there need be no distinction whether great sports-related content comes from Nike or BeIN – the challenge for the Nikes of this world is that the measure of success needs to be not how many people have downloaded their latest video, but how many will download the next one, and the one after that.

Only when brands finally succeed at repeatable, returning content can they truly say that they’ve learnt from the masters and understood the rules of engagement.

I hope that in this year’s World Media Awards we start to see more entries from brands who have recognised the value of this approach – they are likely to be few and far between but will be gaining real competitive advantage by doing so.


The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review.