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.