It is absolutely incredible how much time people are finding to engage with compelling content. I’m speaking of course about the binge watching, the streaming of entire seasons in a single sitting, the mobile and digital viewership of major sporting events like the Sochi Olympic Games, and the countless hours spent on tablets and smartphones, deep in the worlds of apps and games. Nowadays, even when we’re sleeping, some of us are multi-tasking – tracking our ‘progress’, recording biometric activity on a connected device.

In addition to all these new behaviours, viewers are still excited about event television; the 2014 Grammy’s and Super Bowl 48 demonstrated the monumental power of social TV.

There is so much opportunity to engage with audiences. But there is one major caveat: please stop trying to engage outside of the storyline. Don’t make audiences wait 15 seconds, forcing a pre-roll before they can see the content they want. Expectations on content experiences have shifted. By interrupting or holding content hostage to advertiser messages, not only is it detrimental to the brand, its detrimental to the distributor. The audience has made it clear they want stories, intriguing and uninterrupted. Give them this and they’ll be your biggest advocate. Ignore this and you’re out in the cold.

Devoted audiences are a persuasive currency. So is brand-funded content. Both are becoming so important to the way businesses and brands are operating that the biggest and most established players across the media ecosystem are making major moves to adapt to this demand. The headlines are filled with the biggest of brands introducing Chief Content or Storytelling Officers, launching new documentary series, and on the flipside, blue chip media companies are establishing formal branded entertainment divisions. Resources are shifting – both from a budget and an organisational perspective. You have to be under a rock to miss tempers flaring among journalists worldwide as native advertising offers new revenue streams to publishers struggling with declining traditional ad revenue.

To each member of the ecosystem, there are a few basic rules to tap into this endless opportunity.


1. Know your voice: Stand by big, clear ideals to attract the audience you want. David Ogilvy is famous for ‘the big idea’ – “A Big Idea is so simple it can fit on a matchbook cover. So big you can’t think of a place it cannot go.”  Try new things, but know that it must always pass an individual litmus test. A strong guiding principle for your brand, your network, or your publication establishes a set of rules against which everyone responsible for content within the organisation can operate.



2. Know your audience: It’s great to know who you are, but make sure that you’re clear on the cultural context. If you’re trying to win hearts and minds, understand the cycle of topics within your targeted segment, show up to the party on time and determine why your voice is relevant and interesting.



3. Blueprint your strategy: With so many channels and touch points, it’s easy to get lost in the many ways to produce, cut and distribute content. Have a clear plan, even if you migrate from it, you can see where and why, and adapt as necessary.  Don’t try to be all things in all places; a smart distribution strategy should reflect the creative idea at the heart of it.



4. Get in the game: Get out there, produce, and be considerate, but bold. Don’t be afraid to challenge the way your organisation has always done business, but remember to maintain quality and voice. Take calculated risks.



5. Measure, monitor and manage: Data is everywhere, in everything. Big data is great, smart data is better. Know what is worth collecting, measuring and what holds value. Use these insights to adjust and adapt, but be honest with yourself about what the numbers really mean.


Abigail Marks is director, strategy and operations for OgilvyEntertainment. Read all of her MIPBlog posts here.

Expect plenty of branded content innovation at the MIP Digital Fronts, whose first edition takes place at MIPTV, April 9-10. More info here.


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