Content forms an integral part of our work; understanding the factors regarding emotional and intellectual engagement with an audience are important in order to create meaningful experiences. The aim of this article is to trace the evolution of content creation and delivery in light of advances in technology and changes in social activities; hopefully giving some useful insight into options we have for our clients when planning campaigns.
“My biggest competitor today is someone with an idea”
Nabil Sakkab – Head of Research & Development, Procter & Gamble.
In the days when the only mass media was broadcast and print, content producers had a one-way channel to engage their audience.
Typically, audiences respond best to content that carries authority (from factually trusted sources such as the Government) or authenticity (content that connects through personal or social relevance).
Successful TV has both authority and authenticity and the really successful ones are memorable – generally through well-executed, great ideas that appeal to the emotions (through shock or comedy).
A good example is Keira Knightley’s Women’s Aid commercial:
The production values are high, the storyline is strong and the effect of the film is to shock; but if we do not remember the website listed at the end, once the ad finishes we are left shocked but no longer engaged.
With the arrival of YouTube came Manic Dog, Mystic Cat and endless wedding carnage videos. However, once TV producers started to talk with web developers (with the aid of a translation service) the result was a subtle shift in the style and format of programmes.
Interactive software has enabled content producers to give audiences a different experience; multi-layered options in story, format and delivery that no longer depend on high production values but instead rely on engagement through information and choices.
The Government anti-knife crime video campaign, ‘Choose a Different Ending’, is a good example of informed choice given to an audience:
Due to the interactive nature of the viral video, the user/target audience is forced to think about knife crime and the choices they are being asked to make. Each decision is then brought to life in the video, offering an insight into the consequences of carrying a knife. This is a good example of a campaign initiative that can only work online, as it relies on audience interaction.
The video engages the target audience in several ways:
- It is shot from an individual perspective i.e. the player sees the world through the eyes of one person
- It is shot on a council estate and then in the surrounding areas (park, nearby roads), so that the location is a familiar one to the target audience
- The cast is formed of the target audience, ensuring that the language and dress code would also be recognised by this audience
- The video was created with the aid of the target audience which helps with authenticity
Paid, owned and earned
For a while we settled into the comfort of three areas where content would be delivered and debated:
- Paid: TV commercials
- Earned: Comments on a YouTube video
- Owned: A company’s website
Of these three areas, earned has proven to be the most valuable as it carries authenticity through endorsement from peers.
Once hit counts and comments turned into real currency, producers soon realised that success with the audience required more than simply being in the same space, even if the content was clever or well-produced. It became clear that the appropriate tone, language and social context were essential for success.
Take the Government swine-flu film, 2009:
This was a TV ad that was also delivered and promoted online, receiving a whopping 380 hits on YouTube. The ‘Catch it Bin it Kill it’ message was generally dismissed as something for other people (perhaps the penalty for wearing bad jumpers in lifts).
The Government then commissioned a viral video to deliberately spoof the official one, involving actors from the target demographic and contemporary music. The result is much more fun.
Same message; different style (smaller budget); 1 million hits on YouTube. Enough said.
How we consume media
Almost more important to ‘where’ people are watching their videos is ‘how’ people are watching them. This has an effect on the creative and production process.
Viewing habits can be grouped into three main types of activity:
- Snippets (spontaneous media activity)
- Boutique (speciality media searches)
- Catch-up (fitting TV schedules around our own lives)
A recent survey of 1,300 mobile Internet users below the age of 25, showed that most use a mobile device to talk to friends about the show they are watching, a trend known as ‘Social TV’.
Social media has altered the definitions of paid, earned and owned media or at least has blurred the lines between them. Now, the challenge that agencies face is figuring out how to integrate all three forms of media for maximum effect.
After all, social content, by definition, can lack authority but it has authenticity because it establishes relevance and context with our friends and our surroundings.
Let’s have a diagram.
We know there are Fans (consumers) who have Passions (Sport, Music, Art). Sponsored activities provide the magical third piece of the puzzle – the Location. This is not just the location of the event, but, thanks to mobile phones, the location of fans too. And this is powerful intelligence regarding media capture and distribution options.
Radiohead’s concert video shot in Prague in 2009 by 50 fans on Flip cameras makes you feel like you are standing amongst the crowd:
It appeals to fans because it was made by fans, contains fans and gives the fans that couldn’t go the feeling that they were there.
And the effects go beyond the concert. The video was endorsed and published by the band; further projects have been planned by the fans that in turn become a part of the history of the band, strengthening the relationship between all concerned.
The Social challenge – the media ecosystem
The goal is to connect the dots and integrate all media for maximum results.
It is not just about producing content for an event or campaign but to inspire the target audience to contribute, to collaborate and comment beyond the life of the event.
The media can take on a life of its own, especially if there are core community and social values – a mini ecosystem that can run beyond the campaign.
Mobile is ever-increasingly becoming the medium of choice, particularly for image capture and Geo-positioning. According to Comscore, in the next 12 months:
‘We predict more than half of all mobile consumers will have access to mobile media, largely driven by growing adoption of smartphones. Identifying the synergies that exist between all consumer touch points – traditional PC internet, mobile media (via app and browser), tablets, etc. – and understanding how consumers use these devices to fulfil different needs and convenience levels will be of critical importance to marketers.’
How does all this affect production for Synergy Clients?
Social / mobile media is very powerful but it often requires a paid spark.
Synergy already produces world-class output and my goal is to bring broadcast, online and social production and planning experience into close proximity with the Synergy team and clients hopefully resulting in:
- Real-time intelligence on media options available
- Advice on production and delivery techniques, and suppliers to maximize creative impact
- Guidance on delivery options, channels, asset management (now and future) and measurability. If they are managed, assets can be re-purposed, like this COI text driving radio ad that was repurposed (very cost-effectively) as a viral video simply by adding graphics
Here is fifteen years of TV and web production distilled into my simple media AIM chart:
- Content has developed from a one-way communication to an interactive conversation endorsed and measured through social reference
- The balance of emotional, intellectual and social engagement should be carefully planned depending on the target audience and mediums available
- Technology and innovation drive the reach of our work but synergy between content producers and audiences fuels its impact
By Synergy on October 13th, 2011
Tags: Advertising, Alcohol, Branded content, Celebrity, community, Content, Default, Digital marketing, Facebook, Media, Sponsorship, Synergy, Synopsis, Television, Viral Marketing, YouTube