Friday, December 7, 2007

Is It Content or Context?

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to hear a talk by Lisa Gregorian, EVP of Worldwide Marketing at Warner Bros. Television Group. She spoke about “Making the Old New: Marketing Television in the Web Age.” She had a lot of fascinating things to say but ones that particularly impressed me included her emphasis on professionally-created video content and the dominance of the ad-supported business model. I spend a lot of time thinking about user-generated content, so that was a useful perspective for me. I was also intrigued by the ability of the content creators to tailor content to the needs of the narrowcast channels. Think The Closer for TNT.

The next morning when I opened my inbox there was a link to a presentation by Andrew Heyward, entitled “Content Isn’t King Anymore.” He is arguing that context is king in the world of consumer-controlled new media. View video here.

Heyward’s “rules of engagement” in the new media environment are worth considering. They are:
•Value — beyond relevant content to the ability to serve many needs, perform many related tasks
•Affinity -- a chance to connect with like-minded people
•Simplicity — “ask little, deliver a lot”
•Recognition — reward consumers for interacting with the brand
•“Working the web” -- by giving up some control to users.

What’s interesting is that the content creator and the advertising advisor are both talking about the same thing. Consumers want content in many forms, through many channels. Sticking with video we can distribute content over broadcast, cable, Internet or mobile media--each of which has hundreds, maybe thousands, of channels these days. Making the same content work across multiple channels is no small feat but it’s absolutely necessary. Even though you may be reaching a smaller niche market with targeted content, some of your targeted viewers still prefer to sit on the sofa and watch TV while some want to watch on their laptops from wherever they happen to be. And with mobile coming into its own as a medium of communication, it will only get more complicated.

The marketer has to react by understanding that consumers are receiving the content on demand—consumers’ timing not the marketers—and in the context—medium and channel--of their choice. That puts Heyward’s rules of engagement front and center. Marketers have to provide value and the other kinds of meaning he talks about whenever and wherever the consumer chooses to interact with the brand.

Interesting hypothesis—does that bring us back to a core value proposition that we communicate in various ways? In other words, does it focus us on marketing basics, including our customers, not just on clever uses of all media, old and new?
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