Get Beyond the 30-Second Ad: In a World of Many Platforms, It's a Must

Content Has to Be Adapted to Fit the Consumer's Media Experience

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What's the next big thing?

Fifteen years ago, agencies started preaching ROI, which quickly became the mantra for the industry. A few years back, agencies began extolling the virtues of paid, owned and earned media. So what's the next big thing? Content first.

The 30-second ad has served us well as the staple for building awareness and driving brand familiarity. But the proliferation of devices to consume media, the increasing scale and influence of social platforms, and consumers' increasing control over their media are forcing us to re-think how brands must proceed.

If our role is to figure out how best to influence consumers, then we have to take a more strategic perspective of not just where to deliver ads, but what type of content and content formats will work best.

We are seeing examples of how marketers are adapting their messaging by combining data and creativity. Take what Home Depot is doing with The Weather Channel. Tapping the Home Depot banner on the Weather Channel's mobile app sends you to its mobile ecommerce site, which dynamically showcases products extracting weather conditions and location data of the user. Very cool.

With one in three digital minutes now spent on a mobile device, advertising needs to walk a fine line between annoyance and acceptance. During college basketball's March Madness, the NCAA pushed out via Twitter video highlights of plays as they took place. Followers could click the tweeted link that ran five-second AT&T spots before the content. A 30- or 15-second spot would have been a turn-off, but a short five-second spot, close up, seemed an acceptable trade for real-time content in providing a positive consumer experience for basketball fans. A content-first strategy ensures that the consumer experience decides the messaging format.

When Royal Caribbean -- full disclosure: a Mindshare client -- looked to get first-time cruisers to book, this presented some challenges. There are so many pre-conceptions about cruise liners that a 30-second spot alone couldn't easily overcome. Long-form storytelling was necessary to draw the consumer into the onboard experience. So Royal Caribbean agreed to develop two shortfilms shot on their flagship "Allure of the Seas" ship, featuring Jenny McCarthy and James Brolin. The storyline incorporated the amenities onboard and gave viewers a more entertaining and organic view of the onboard experience. 

One of the important payouts in a content-first strategy is driving earned media. Consumers are more likely to share content than ads. Unilever -- another Mindshare client -- teamed up with AOL to support the "Makers" series of videos about empowering and inspirational women from Hillary Clinton to Ellen DeGeneres. The content program, a TV special on PBS and surrounding events drove advocacy among opinion formers, generating over 200 million earned impressions via editorial and social mentions. 

Consumers are in control and brands need to up their game to engage them. As we navigate through more devices and platforms that consumers are using to access media, we need to be as dynamic and fluid in the way we communicate with them.

Antony Young is CEO of Mindshare North America.
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