Is content the advertiser’s attention-seeking saviour?

Apathy, the great marketing enemy of the moment. We plan, we create and we invest but when that effort is met with consumer apathy our optimism is crushed, along with our brand and commercial metrics. Whilst we despair of apathy, we embrace attention – attention destroys apathy every time. Attention is fast emerging as the most valuable marketing currency – if your consumers pay attention, then you are winning.

Simple and obvious, but how to earn attention? Welcome a great marketing hero of our time – content – the attention seeker. Content is the most elastic word currently in use across the industry. Used with increased frequency but with an inverse sense of clarity as to exactly what it refers to. Dave Trott rather brilliantly recently described content as “something to fill up space” – and to an extent that is true. It is there to fill up a space, but how we fill the space is up to us. Consumers’ attention is finite, whereas brand messages are infinite. Advertising addressed that by interrupting, content asks permission – and consumers have every right and opportunity to decline or indeed to accept and then dismiss and disparage.

That being the case, brands needs to ask themselves several questions before creating and distributing content.

First - be clear what business you are in. Brands are not (usually) publishers – they are brands and they have their own defined role and purpose. Be authentic and have a point, ubiquity is not a goal per se, bandwagons are bad – sacrifice and selection are good.

Second – what do you want your audience to say about you? Content is wonderful at “one to one to many” communication - people share content and make statements about your brand on your behalf. Be clear what you want that message to be. We should realise also that sharing content is primarily a wonderfully nuanced way of making a personal statement – I am clever, I am connected, I am funny. Understand that, embrace that and create accordingly.

Third – are you going to use a media partner as the distribution mechanism? If so then ensure they reflect and represent your brand needs - otherwise you risk great content being compromised through a lack of credibility.

Fourth – what type of content should be produced and what consumer need is it meeting? Sometimes it should be useful, sometimes is should be entertaining. It likely depends on where in the purchase journey the consumer is. The challenge is that the consumer, their needs and their journey to purchase is complex and unpredictable - and increasingly so.

To help with this last point, at MEC we have developed a new approach to understanding the consumer decision making process. Called MEC Momentum, it is based on the latest thinking into the psychology of choice and it demonstrates there are two key elements to every purchase journey. The Passive Stage - when consumers are not making decisions but are forming opinions and The Active Stage – when consumers are looking to make a purchase. The Passive Stage is of particular interest, our studies demonstrate that the higher your consumer’s ‘Passive Stage Bias’, the less price sensitive they are, the fewer competitors they explore and the quicker they make decisions.

Content has an important role throughout the journey – albeit it differs by audience, category and country – but this role can be enhanced by using insight into the different mindsets that sit behind these two stages to plan content that fits. A broad observation is that the Passive Stage is focussed more on entertainment and long form. The Active Stage is more information and knowledge based and often shorter. What Momentum certainly demonstrates is that content does not usually work best in splendid isolation – it may ‘fill a space’ but it must share that space and add value.

This is something that the World Media Group (WMG) has recognised, which is why they have launched the World Media Awards: the first awards of their kind to celebrate the best in international content-based communications. I believe this move by WMG reflects the growing influence of this area and importantly, the increasingly broad range of opportunities that advertisers and agencies can embrace. I am delighted to be a co-head judge of these awards and look forward to reading and judging the entries – and selecting our very own content heroes.

Entry to the awards is now open – and it’s free, so what are you waiting for?

Alex Altman, Managing Director, Global Solutions London, MEC

Contact for the World Media Awards:

Tel: 0207 780 7679



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