The word ‘content’ is bandied about incessantly these days – encompassing anything from editorial to social, entertainment to advertising, and everything in between. Gemma Knox of Virtue Worldwide at Vice recently told The Drum that “content is the new c-word. The world is drowning in the stuff and attention has become a valuable commodity.”
We wondered how the judging panel of the 2019 Drum Content Awards felt about this idea. In an oversaturated market, how can brands, agencies and creators ensure their work stands out? And more importantly, what were the judges looking for amongst all this?
Content needs to do more than be meaningful in order to stand out
It was widely agreed upon by the judging panel that engagement needs to be meaningful to the consumer to be effective. For John Parker, director of creative partners at Clickon Media, good content “has to stop you scrolling. There must be something about it that grabs your attention. Of course, it’s great if it’s smart, but it’s better if it’s something that actually engages the consumer.”
However, the judges conceded that content must also be strategic for its full impact to be felt. “When it comes to meaningful engagement… we have to think about where the content is being seen, which medium it's being seen in, the state of mind of the people as and when they're coming across the content,” according to Carmel Hayes, head of content and digital, Visit Britain. “The aim can't just be to get it across to as many people as possible. We need to be more sophisticated in terms of the mindset of the consumer.”
Other jurors agreed that content we hail as meaningful or authentic is too often one dimensional, resulting in it not being as effective as it could be, claiming that one thing they have noticed is “a lot of people are only able to tick one box.”
“It might be meaningful, but it doesn't necessarily do anything for the brand, or it might be doing something for the brand but it's not the right location... it's how all those things come together as one, it's got to tick all of those boxes," added Hayes.
The trouble with authenticity
Authenticity is often the factor hailed as a crucial way for content to convey its messages to audiences and consumers. However, not all the judges were convinced that it is the key to effective content. “I think the question around authenticity is a red herring to be honest, because it means different things to different people,” explained Ryan Reddick, creative director, Edelman. “A consumer might just think ‘oh if you’re trying to sell something to me then that's not authentic’, so that wipes out 99% of the things we're going to see here today.
“What we're talking about here is that it must work. no matter what you're trying to do - whether it's entertaining or inform or surprise and delight - it must feel real. It can't feel staged and awkward.”
As such, the work “has to be true to the voice of the creator,” chimed the panel. “The easiest example of that is with an influencer. If the brand gets too heavy-handed with an influencer campaign it loses its authenticity, and the audience walks away from it," explained, Arif Durrani, executive editor, Bloomberg Media Studios.
“To be authentic and true to the audience, it needs to be meaningful for that audience to come to it. You need to mediate and moderate and balance where the brand is and how it integrates with the voice of the creative. Whether it's Channel 4, The Guardian, an influencer. Even the advertiser. It just needs to be true to that voice and therefore receptive to the audience."
How to make context more effective
The Drum then proceeded to ask the judges if they, therefore, believed that context was the solution to ineffective, and frankly insincere, content creation. Yet, they largely opposed this notion or at least the over-usage of the term.
"It's such a terrible word, and so misused. Adding the word 'context' is just more jargon” mused Cecilia Dominici, digital strategy and content director, WE Communications. “The solution is clarity around the intention of the content, whether it's social, whether it's a drama – it’s about being a bit more specific about what the thing actually is... and that means that the intention behind things doesn't get confused."
Toby Hory, brand and content director of Tui and chair of the judging panel believes that we should be swapping out the word ‘context’ for ‘effectiveness'. “The world is awash with content,” he explains. “With most of it is being made by brands. It's not like the world is short of content.
“However, the content that we're trying to make is trying to do a job for a business. I think effectiveness is much more important and see it as something that goes beyond like or views.”
The Drum Content Awards 2019 judging panel consisted of experts from across the content marketing spectrum including brands like Panasonic, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Nomad Foods, O2, Tui, Amazon, Red Bull and Selfridges, media companies like News UK, Evening Standard, Hearst and Bloomberg and agencies like WE Communications, Wunderman Thompson, Ogilvy, Edelman and Iris. A full list of the panel can be found here.
Partners of the awards are Winmo and BCMA