News & Views

Opinion / The Media World is Flat

by Contagious Contributor

VCCP's Christine Beardsell on why brands are perfectly set-up to not only be great content creators, but also media owners

Today we live in a media world where YouTube's Charlieissocoollike can create a video in his bedroom and achieve more views than over 75% of Channel 5's primetime line-up on any given night; a world where Google and Yahoo! employ their own inventory ad space to drive eyeballs and views to their own content and technologies. Top publishers are creating networks across their own online magazine properties to self-promote and hopefully suck out interest from every corner they can find. Today's media world spins upside down, sideways and inside out.

And there is no 'winning formula'. It's officially an even, democratised playing field where technology has made media ownership a possibility for ordinary individuals, and where the defining line between amateur and professional has turned 50 Shades of Grey (pun totally intended). The media world is indeed flat.  

So, what happens when you throw a brand in the mix - also fighting desperately for attention? Brands that are throwing out messages and content that often isn't half as entertaining as the media company's page or screen it is sitting next to? The answer, as we are slowly seeing, is 'not much'. 

Brands and advertisers today (and yesterday) will do anything to stand out. But their best chance of being noticed these days is really just to blend in.

The last 50 years of disruptive advertising is slowly being killed off by technology and human behaviour. It's starting to look like one of those cat and mouse shows where the joke is unfortunately always on the cat. Technologies like VOD are almost 15 years old in the UK.  That means a teenager could have lived their entire life without viewing a single commercial. Click-through rates on banner ads are on average 0.01% (not including fall-off rates); 99.99% of the world is suffering from Banner Blindness - with no foreseeable cure. And the latest plague on the industry is Google's own war on SEO. The clever days of marketer's back-linking and stuffing keywords seems to be a losing battle. The geekiest of interruptive methods are being out-geeked by the bigger geeks. 

Which brings us back to the idea of 'blending in'.  Look at most brand marketers' and advertisers' skill-sets; they actually have more talent between the various disciplines than any broadcaster, publisher, and YouTuber of today. They know audiences and how to target them better; they have enough data to cater to different needs and wants; and the best creatives are born storytellers (just look at the likes of Ridley Scott, Spike Jonze, and Michal Gondry).

Brands are perfectly set-up to not only be great content creators, but media owners too. 
The current industry model funds other people's great content allowing it to get the spotlight while the brand's content falls inbetween the cracks. Why shouldn't brands just start funding their own? 

At Cannes last year there were two themes that came up again and again: content and big data. This is no coincidence. The combination of these two disciplines really is the future of our industry. And in many ways they always have been. As brand marketers we just haven't been utilising all the tools. Our own 'best practices' seem to get in our own way.  We all just need to unlearn and reapply that which we are already good at.

We are currently living through a unique period in advertising where revolution and evolution are coinciding. The rapid release of new technologies is triggering behavioural change in people at such a pace that we as an industry are forced to innovate and evolve. The fittest companies and brands are those that are flexible and lean enough to keep up and respond to changing behaviours and the big, fat cats are going to keep being out-chased and out-smarted. Blend in and out beat.

Christine Beardsell is head of content at VCCP, London