What’s the difference between an ad and content?

Posted on Oct 19, 2014

“There’s no line between advertising and branded content, no straight line anyway,” said Jennifer Golub, creative director-exec director of content at TBWA content arm Let There Be Dragons. “It’s more of an ambling brook.”

Cannes Lions, 2014

I noticed two nice pieces of work from Philips today, both creatively very thoughtful and visually well executed.

As both are produced in an entertaining and non-intrusive way, they leave you with warm fuzzies for the brand and products. (It has definitely made me feel more positively to Philips and these type of adjustable lightbulbs!) There’s no hard sell of cold features going on here.
Show don’t tell.

It is interesting to take these two examples and throw them into the ‘content vs ad’ argument, with one clearly being more content, and one slap bang in the grey area of the two.

To start, the 90 second ad for Philips hue (it actually reminds me a little of some John Lewis ads). Much like John Lewis ads, this does sit on the fence between content and advertising. This particular execution does veer into the content argument though.

AFTERGLOW looks absolutely incredible and is very much content, whilst actually promoting a longer film which goes live on Philips’ website on 19th October 2014. (You can imagine Sony would’ve killed for this film during their ‘Colour’ Bravia marketing phase).

But why does the ‘hue’ ad feel like it could be both? Is it because it’s beautifully made, with an interesting narrative to see how light in our home has changed (or not) through time? Is that enough to make it content? Even though its focus is the product? The product is in every frame, and shown in a ‘normal’ use case. AFTERGLOW also features the product throughout, but in a way that 99.9% of customers never will. It is not just this factor.

Only this week I read an article on AdAge which was expressing the struggle Cannes had (and is probably still having) in defining what content actually is. I’m sure this is a debate which won’t be easily solved, but at Cannes they settled with this:

…content was interpreted as something culturally relevant that people invite or seek out.

That is certainly a sensible approach, but that still doesn’t make for an easy categorisation.

With this in mind you could categorise the Philips ‘ad’ for Philips hue as content, as people would enjoy seeing how life has evolved at home in the recent decades. I myself was curious enough from the title of a blog post and a still from the ad to click through and watch it. Much like how people sought after watching the Epic Splits video from Volvo, as it became culturally relevant through millions of people watching it and sharing it.

I like to think that, video ‘content’ can come in any form or execution. A 6 second Vine, a 30 second TVC or a 12 minute YouTube video. But for me it has to have some (or all) these qualities, and I think the more you have the finer the work:

  1. Don’t be an interruption
  2. Have value
  3. Be relevant
  4. Be authentic
  5. And do at least one of these –> Inform, educate and entertain (Stolen from Reith’s BBC Mission)
  6. Some of these are obviously open to interpretation, but you have to be ruthless with them and put yourself in the shoes of the intended audience – does it deliver on any of these? By virtue of achieving some of these, you accomplish the others – so it is something of a self fulfilling list. But all the best advertising that does this can certainly be classed as content. And before the era of YouTube/online advertising, we’d all sit and watch stuff like this – the 100 Best TV ads – check out this from 2003…

    Are any of these classic ads content?

    I think so.

    Perhaps it just boils down to story, does it contain a well designed and executed story, rather than just slamming audiences with features or prices?
    Story will certainly add value, and it will be far more engaging than one without a story – you just have to ensure it is relevant and authentic to the brand and the audience. It’s not so simple.

    We are storytellers, right?

    (Nods to Petapixel & Gizmodo/Sploid & AdAge)

iMac 5k Retina

Posted on Oct 18, 2014

Love how Apple is advertising the iMac 5K on their site, beautiful and useful parallax.






Posted on Oct 4, 2014

See how creative talents define and use the brief to deliver great results.

“If the brief isn’t true, stop working on it. STOP”

John C Jay
Global Executive Director, Wieden + Kennedy

“Fuck! Why can’t we just!? Bleugh..And there it is. That’s all you gotta do, let’s just do that!”

John Boiler
CEO, 72 & Sunny

(via @neilperkin @fragglapp)

Why Tech-Savvy CEOs Rule the World

Posted on Sep 17, 2014

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Larry Page…the list goes on. Each of these leaders possessed a deep understanding of the technology that their business was built upon.

…the best ones are those who really “get” their products–from the inside out.

One notable outlier here was Steve Jobs, but his vision clearly negated that issue.

Via Inc.

Sir John Hegarty on How the Ad Industry Has Lost Its Courage

Posted on Sep 16, 2014

Sir John Hegarty seems to be saying this a lot lately, but a good article in AdAge nonetheless.

Sir John’s first job was at Benton & Bowles’ London office. “I was this upstart young creative who was very lippy, who had all the opinions going for me in the world.” And he soon found out he was dealing with people “who just didn’t get it.”

But he kept offering up his unadulterated opinions on how things should be, “and in the end it was kind of, ‘John, I think our paths should now part and you should seek your fortune elsewhere.’ It was a very nice firing in a way.”

I can’t help but feel an affinity for his first job where people ‘didn’t get it’ to how many people today don’t really ‘get’ content marketing and how to be truly effective in marketing their brand/product/service by using content properly (not just using it as a way to get your logo on minutes of video, for example). (It’s funny how he even places disdain on “some bloke in a sweaty T-shirt who’s 18-and-a-half has said to you, ‘You don’t need to do that.”) Does Hegarty now not ‘get it’? (don’t shoot me!).

With regard to content marketing, it certainly feels there’s still a lot of educating to do to bring people (agencies, brands, colleagues) around, and in line with Hegarty’s point – everyone needs to be brave and courageous with their budgets to really be successful.

Make the most of your platform

Posted on Sep 7, 2014

This post from Brendan Gahan really nails some key points with how to get the best out of YouTube, and the audience you want to reach. One point really sticks out though for me, the use of gadgets or microsites embedded into a YouTube channel.

It doesn’t make any sense, there’s a website for that.

Use YouTube for videos, not a website jammed into a separate tab on the channel.

Oh yeah, it doesn’t work on mobiles or tablets either.

Lot’s of brands use channel gadgets (here’s an example of one). These gadgets are apps in an iframe on the Youtube channel. It interrupts the user experience and forces viewers to interact with the brand in a manner that they’re unfamiliar with. As a result there is a ton of dropoff (50% fewer viewers convert to subscribers, and there are 15% fewer shares than brand channels without gadgets).

Gary Vaynerchuk: How to Tell Stories in an A.D.D. World

Posted on Sep 7, 2014

Loved this talk from Gary Vaynerchuk. His intensity is something to behold – and he makes some great points. One that really stuck out was using all the different platforms we have access to in the right way.

Instead of just whacking links on twitter (something I’m guilty of) use it to connect with people on twitter.

Don’t just use these platforms to link people to content that lives elsewhere.

Create content that’s native to that platform, or don’t bother.