Just as the internet is saturated with content, Advertising Week Europe can be saturated with white noise – yet cutting through the trite phrases and hackneyed forecasts this year was Nic McCarthy, Content Director at Seven. She called out one piece of content that stirred much curiosity – BT.com’s ‘parenting’ section. And no – this has nothing at all to do with parental controls, but everything to do with parental control.
It is as incongruous as it sounds – if you visit the landing page today (2nd May 2016) you will see features entitled ‘Is Your Name Banned in Saudi Arabia?’ and ‘Allergy Ban is Nuts, says Dad’ – which likely won’t assist your YouView installation.
Do you ever look at campaigns and imagine the brainstorm that brought them to life? I can visualise BT’s mind-map, and the whiteboard is crowded with words like ‘emotional relationship’, ‘fostering warmth’, ‘at the heart of the household’ and ‘relevance’. I understand the intent, but the takeaway feeling is of dissonance, aping both authority and authenticity.
Brands venturing beyond the confines of their niche isn’t new – the first piece of native advertising as we know it was the Michelin cross-country restaurant guide (1900). Their strategy was more direct than BT’s loyalty logic – more destinations equates to more drivers, which will sell more tyres. The differential in Michelin’s success however was their commitment to authority and authenticity, realised by recruiting experienced restaurant inspectors who closely guarded their anonymity. Michelin surfaced unknown critical talent, and sated their consumers’ appetites for insight with integrity.
Brands have such little power to convey exceptional content in and of themselves – we need to reconsider our definition of content marketing.
To impact the audience, brands need to cede control to authentic, grassroots talent, and better yet, to fund unknown talents, while handing over creative authority. The more total this devolution of power can be, and the bolder the marketer, the more resounding the impact.
Any brand can invest in reassuringly expensive known YouTube stars, Instagrammars and street-style photographers, and get a reasonable result if your #spon slug loiters in the gutter of the page. However, acting as the angel investor to fresh talent shows that as a brand you care about the guy waiting for the bus on the street, that you respect social enterprise as a tool to make advertising ‘good’ once more, and that you’re smarter than a blog badging exercise.
At Factory Media, our editorial team WhatsApp Olympic gold medallists. Not to call in favours, but to see if they fancy working on an awesome project they thought up on a chairlift hanging over a valley. And to ask what’s new with the family, who’ve all grown up a bit since they were all 13 years old, tearing up the local BMX track. If our commercial team can find a closely-aligned, trusting and open-minded advertiser to back the project, and cede editorial control, then we can 100% guarantee compelling content that is real, and raw, and resonant (parental controls optional).