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Commentary

The Democratization Of Content

It's certainly not news that all ads are not created equal. Some grab us by the throats (or the funny bone) the very first time we see them. We remember them. We tell others about them. We don't cringe when we see them again. We might even look them up and share them on YouTube.

Other spots? There are loads of them we're exposed to over and over but never pay them any mind. Or if we do it's only because the advertiser has spent the equivalent of the GDP of a developing country to force his message in front of us.

Such is the nature of paid advertising.

It doesn't take a genius to conclude that ads that do a better job of engaging or entertaining us also do a better job of selling. Yet there are some who still tend to discount creativity in advertising to be somewhat of a commodity. As support, they may point to the success of spots such as the infomercial-esque "as seen on TV" ads as proof that it's what the ad says, not how it's said that matters. And they have a point: interrupt people with $30 million in paid media, and the needle will move.

But more and more, we are moving to a model of opt-in On Demand content. Less are we able to interrupt the consumer with whatever message we want to deliver and take for granted they'll pay attention to it.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Social Media. There are no multimillion "buys" on Facebook. The barrier to entry is non-existent. Access to Social Media platforms has been democratized. Got a $200 Flip camera? Then you have the potential of reaching millions of YouTube viewers.

Today, the success of content isn't solely reliant on "the spend." It's on how many users feel inclined to pass it forward and to talk it up.

The opt-in world is about engagement. And engagement only comes if you deliver kick-ass content. A great illustration of this point would be to compare the results of two recent Social Media campaigns: The Old Spice "Man Your Man Could Smell Like" series, and the Cisco "Ted From Accounting" series.

In the Old Spice campaign, Social Media users were invited to correspond with The Old Spice Guy. Old Spice's agency (Wieden & Kennedy) then shot nearly 200 "personalized web videos" addressed to fans (and Social Media heavyweights) over a couple of days and posted them online. The resulting buzz generated an estimated 1.4 BILLION views, hits and mentions over the period of a few weeks. (Oh, and sales were up over 100% over that period.) You can view some of the spots here.

On the other hand, Cisco's "Ted From Accounting" series was launched as a web series in hopes of going viral. See them here .

Response to the "Ted" videos was less than overwhelming (fewer than 12,000 views, despite a huge PR push). One commenter on their YouTube page summed up reaction to the campaign this way: "I am embarrassed for your marketing department. This is the sad result of a poorly orchestrated attempt at some sort of viral leaching by a room full of middle aged guys, who's [sic] kids saw something on YouTube that they thought would be a good idea to copy."

Ouch.

Granted, this is hardly an apples-to-apples comparison. The Old Spice campaign started as a mass media campaign and extended to include the digital component. But while "Ted in Accounting" didn't have that mass media lift, there was nothing there that made the content worth sharing and spreading.

The digital world is proving what we who have developed offline content for years have always known: people aren't going to waste their time with boring content.

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