Dave Trott writing in Campaign, ’Content, content, content’,
Content is seen as just stuff.
The stuff that goes into the space that’s there to be filled.
Think of a lorry.
A lorry has wheels, an engine and a cab.
And a big space on the back to be filled up with something.
It doesn’t matter what you fill it with, the lorry is the delivery system.
I’m a huge fan and greatly respect Dave Trott, I’ve seen him speak at several events, read his books, retweet his tweets and had the pleasure to have a walk and talk with him one evening after an event. I’m always left educated, entertained and inspired. Reading his views about content I feel compelled to write a reply, as I feel content gets such a bad rap and his thoughts are based on a lot of bad work out there.
This is a view which is reflected on industry blogs, magazines, websites and Twitter feeds, and it’s a shame.
It’s a shame because when brands and agencies realised they could make ‘stuff’ cheaply and on ‘owned media’ (without media spends on new platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter), it gave rise to lots of ineffective and poorly executed stuff in shiny lorries being put in front of people.
Most of it made by people who didn’t really understand the opportunity put in front of them.
This has given rise to such derision to the mere idea of content, that content is openly sneered at, especially by the traditional ATL Creative & Media agencies.
From their point of view they have good reasons to feel that way:
1) They see the thinking, strategy, creative and execution they pour onto their typical ATL campaigns not reflected in the vast majority of content created by either their own content arms or smaller bespoke agencies/production companies/one man bands/YouTube vloggers.
2) The idea that there is no ‘idea’ in content, that it’s not possible for content to help position a brand/product effectively and solve a business problem.
3) It threatens their business model around large campaigns with large media spends.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” (I can appreciate the dichotomy here when I have the word ‘Content’ in my job title!)
4) It requires a totally different approach (if done properly), moving from advertising to creating content which people want to watch. Not advertising designed to make a big impact in a short amount of time whilst usually interrupting the content people were trying to watch.
In Dave Trott’s analogy, if the content of the lorry was full of iPhone’s and I want to buy an iPhone, that lorry and content is very valuable to me. If the content is a Samsung Galaxy phone, I’m going to let that lorry drive past me. It doesn’t have value to me.
It’s in the eye of the beholder.
Good content is about thinking what the audience finds valuable in terms of their attention. If you deliver on that contract you can make a much more substantial connection than an ad that is interrupting what they want to be doing.
You are creating a product they want, rather than something advertising a product.
Without getting all Martin Luther King about it, I see a future where all these approaches exist in unison (maybe not banner ads), and anything classified as content truly delivers on that promise and isn’t just fodder for media spends or for robots to watch.
The delivery system facilitated getting the idea in front of the right people.
But the important thing was the idea.
To put it simply: it was idea first, delivery system second.
But by relegating the idea to content, it becomes far less important.
The delivery system must now come before the idea, before the "content".
I just don’t agree with this. Content is still about an idea. You then work out where the audience spends most of their time and design content in the most suitable way relating to the audience, brand and platform.
Dave Trott has a brilliant diagram he draws live in his talks, and rather than focusing on platforms it starts with a human. The human is the medium, (not a shiny platform) - and quite right! If that human likes what they watch/read/hear, they will tell their mates, family, colleagues, followers etc.
Content is no different here.
At an APG talk recently Dave Trott spoke about how he approached his personal Twitter account, and that an expert was brought in to ‘teach’ him how to use the platform.
Dave said he ignored all of what the expert said and just started writing some jokes, posting quotes and some links to interesting articles relating to advertising. He would then intersperse this by promoting his blog posts and his books.
Brilliant blog posts, jokes, quotes and links to interesting articles is valuable content, and frictionless to access apart from some blog posts being behind some paywalls.
Links to buy your books is advertising of your product, the thing you sell.
By treating content as seriously as his books (like a product), Dave now has over 21,000 followers. It would be interesting to know how this Twitter activity affects his book sales. It can’t hurt can it?
Dave mentioned the expert had around 400 followers.
This is the point.
Think of your audience, create content which will be valuable to them on the chosen platform and where the brand/product is relevant/intrinsic/authentic (remember we are selling stuff), and you will create a strong connection, you might even build an audience around your content, and that growing audience will be quite incentivised to purchase products off you.
That’s what content is and what content can do.
I personally cannot stand 99% of youtuber’s content. The humor is often juvenile, skits are terrible, and feels as though it’s all appealing to the lowest common denominator.
But, I think the same thing about most TV.
And I love YouTube as an advertiser far, far more. The videos most YouTubers make are not made for me. I’m not the target audience – but I know the influence these creators wield.
As marketers we need to remove ourselves from what we like and put ourselves in our audience’s shoes.
Great and brave post, I Hate YouTube, from Brendan Gahan, which echoes feelings I have when thinking what an audience wants. We're not making things for us, sometimes we are aligned with the target audience and that's great. But good to remember many audiences we make content for will engage/enjoy/require something out of the comfort zone of taste you may empathise with.
I feel this about broadcast TV, and can't bear the thought of even switching it on these days (my BT video box has never been turned on). I treat YouTube like I do all platforms that I get content from, and it's on demand, I look for what I want and watch that. All the more reason that creators, brands and publishers should really think deeply about their audiences (or audiences they want to build) in delivering valuable content that make people WANT to watch.
How do you articulate something you discern irrationally?
Love this post, The Jony Ive Principle, by Daniel Rakhamimov, who makes some fantastic points and you should go and read that. One thing in particular resonated with me when I watched the interview with JJ Abrams & Jony Ive.
I do believe that we are capable of discerning far more than we are capable of articulating…
Daniel Rakhamimov goes on
Now think about that for a second…what Jony is so eloquently implying is that when he designs the products that touch millions of people on a daily basis, he doesn’t do it with the notion that we will experience it through our rational thinking brain, but that we will feel it through the deeper, less articulate, emotional one.
I love this, and everyday I find myself struggling to explain a feeling about one thing or another, but it’s there and it is real. You simply just know when something is right, is good, is cool.
JJ Abrams, goes on to develop this thought towards Brian Grazer, mentioning how he has a reknowned gut in the film/tv industry for knowing what will make a good film or tv show. And that it’s not through being overtly strategic or thinking ‘there isn’t such and such out there right now, so lets make that’. It comes from a place where you just feel something when it’s in front of you.
There was an episode of The Sopranos A Hit is a Hit, where Chris is trying to help Adriana to have a career in the music industry, and plays a demo to Hesh (a wealthy record producer, now retired). Hesh says it's not good and speaks to the gut feeling he had when he met Hendrix, and that Adriana’s band don’t have that (Hesh making it easy there for the poor band!).
Later in the episode, when overhearing a random song playing, Hesh tells Christopher "Now that is a hit". Chris is left a little dumbstruck, and here in a nutshell is the point.
It’s in the eye of the beholder, but the beholder needs to have the vision, the understanding to somehow know it’s right.
In the commercial world, it is vital to be able to share that vision, whether by themselves or through articulating it, even in a small way, to a team or an individual to make that vision come alive, otherwise they'll be nothing.
I just got back from a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, overseeing all the content going up to the YouTube channel and website for the annual Google Zeitgeist event. Zeitgeist is Google’s annual gathering of the world’s thought leaders, explorers, thinkers, scientists and creators.
This year some highlights were:
Live video chat with the ISS between two astronaut twins
John Legend, Bryan Stevenson discussing justice
Getty Images shows off the cool 360 screen at the event and talks about the power of image
Kanye West also spoke, he had a chart showing all the industries he wants to impact, it was pretty huge - look forward to be able to share (waiting for the video to go live).
Here's the highlights from the event, with some clips from the talks.
In addition to the talks at the event, Google takes great care to create interesting ways to interact with their latest products, some which may not be public yet. While out there I noticed Louis Cole (FunForLouis) vlogging, and he's just released two videos which really capture how it feels walking around an event like Zeitgeist, where the talks are obviously the main thing going on, but a whole world is going on around that (as well as the highly useful networking for the attendees).
Going to Phoenix also provides the opportunity to have an In-N-Out burger (or three)....