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ADVERTISING RESEARCH FOUNDATION
How owned media
changes the game
Point your lens toward Madison Avenue.
What you see is the media industry
burning its index finger on the digital-content trend. Agencies squirming when
clients ask them for a content strategy.
Content farms burning, measurements
churning and advertisers yearning for
Why the fuss? After all, great content
has been around since Moses made his
low-tech tablets. The conundrum arises
from the simple fact that content builds
relationships, but those who pay someone
else via paid-media advertising don’t
control that relationship. Since the web
provides universal access to publishing,
advertisers now have the means to take
back some control. Oh, and did I mention
that on the web, great content gets free
distribution? Consumers come and get it if
it meets their needs.
Advertisers can produce content and
get their own audience without,
ostensibly, the assistance of a media
company. In her new book, “Content
Marketing,” Rebecca Lieb points out that
while anyone can become a publisher on
the internet, few can do it well.
But even with the know-how to
produce good content, we need to make a
lot of decisions. How do we measure the
new model? How do we communicate
brand in a way that supports our
business, and how does the content
reflect or support our brand?
The aspiring publisher quickly runs
The relationship of content and distribution is
not the setting of traps in every hallway, but
more like a system of helpful Post-it Notes
and handrails that help consumers get
where they want to go.
into the problem of too many options on
blending content and persuasion.
By contrast, traditional publishing
leaves advertisers with relatively few
choices: There’s an ad. It appears in a box.
The box contains copy. Ad agencies make
the copy. The brand figures out “who,”
and the media ecosystem delivers those
eyeballs. Put money in the slot, and out
It’s the mousetrap model: Content is
bait, persuasion is the trap. The ubiquity of
this model helps grease the skids by
making clean lines for transaction. It scales
well. The process for connecting brand
persuasion to content is simple
juxtaposition. But when advertisers create
content for themselves, no “box” is
required, and weaving brand and content
becomes a craft.
their own ads and bought “carriage” from
networks. They had clever ways to build
persuasion into content without tainting
the content with blatant push. Beyond the
inevitable sponsorship message, equity
colors may have been omnipresent. The
characters may have had problems that
the sponsor’s brand could solve. The
casting may have included spokespeople.
The persuasion had elements of
reciprocity: “I’ve brought you some nice
content, surely you like me now.”
On the web, if the consumer doesn’t
like you, the results are instant and
terminal, so reciprocity seems like a good
bet. A 2006 sponsorship study in the
Journal of Advertising Research,
conducted by Bill Harvey, Stu Gray and
Gerald Despain, determined that this sort
of persuasion works.
“This study and 28 similar ones
preceding it clearly demonstrate that
‘exclusive’ sponsorship on the internet
produces a substantial lift in brand
consideration and purchase intent. … And
we can now add to this equation that
there a considerable and meaningful
‘gratitude effect’ generated by
Especially for established brands,
branding mechanisms can work to
develop top-of-mind associations, a visual
connection with the packaging and a
positive view of the brand. In “Mutual of
Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” the early-1960s
classic sponsored-TV show, the
announcer said: “Just as the
mother lion protects her cubs,
you can protect your children
with an insurance policy from
Mutual of Omaha.”
The web adds dimensions to
that dynamic by enabling
advertisers to knit content
fragments into whole fabric.
An ecosystem of content
Recently, in a room full of advertising
brain trustees, one executive said, “The
‘new creative’ might be an ecosystem of
content.” Brilliant. The brand lives in the
connections, the juxtapositions, the
inferences, the feeling of reciprocity.
The relationship of content and
distribution is not the setting of traps in
every hallway, but more like a system of
helpful Post-it Notes and handrails that
help consumers get where they want to go.
Advertisers can manage the
conundrum by thinking of content as part
of brand experience and delivering it with
care. Value, not persuasion, is at the center.
You want those mice to love you. If
your place isn’t pleasant, the mice will
move next door.
Back to the advertising future
In the beginning, advertisers played an
important role in content creation. They
often owned entire programs, inserted
Ted McConnell is exec-VP Digital for the
Advertising Research Foundation.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT YOU SAY
Which matchup would you
rather see in the Super Bowl?
Before the conference championship games, we asked readers who they wanted to see in
the Super Bowl. Looks like the majority got what it wanted.
Who do you think will be the Republican
nominee for president in 2012?
PHOTO BY EMMANUEL DUNAND
RE: “How VW Conducted Its Canine Chorus” (AA, Jan. 23).
Two characters were misidentified in the visual accompanying the article. We inadvertently swapped
the corresponding arrows for Gus, the Yorkshire terrier/Affenpinscher mix representing Chewbacca
and the unnamed Affenpinscher/Yorkshire terrier/Terrier mix representing the Ewok. Also incorrect
was the statement: “None of the dogs don a Vader mask or Leia cinnamon-bun hairpieces.” The dog
portraying Princess Leia is indeed wearing a cinnamon-bun furpiece. We regret the error.
In “How Well Defined Is Your Brand Ideal?” (AA, Jan. 16), it was incorrectly stated that Millward
Brown used functional magnetic resonance imaging in the Stengel 50 research. It actually used
implied association testing.