Over the past few weeks as my eight-months-pregnant self stood in long lines with marketing cohorts waiting for each Digital Newfront presentation to open their doors, three things became clear to me: great New York City weather can make even the most tedious tasks bearable, I made the right shoe choice and the Newfronts signaled an inflection point for content.
Beyond the requisite presentation sizzle, I also saw some steak via a through-line that was palpable (beyond my incessant need for more passed hors d'oeuvres): Every Newfront presenter was an expert in content creation, masterful at content curation and each has cracked the code to reaching the millennial audience. Presenters touted more original programming, newly-formed internal creative studios to develop more original content (a definite emerging trend), or new strategic partnerships to extend content reach. And most times, all three.
So with this mass influx of content and everyone touting their ability to lead the way, what are the key takeaways? How do brands navigate it all? Or in the ancient words of Iron Chef, whose cuisine reigns supreme? (I might need another snack…)
The answers in order are: master the convergence of story and telling and you win, strategy is key and the right content creation will reign supreme.
First: master the convergence of story and telling and you win. The art of the story hasn’t changed, but the way it is told (aka curated and consumed) has. Of note at this year’s Newfronts: Hulu touted itself as a TV network, since it is a distributor of TV programming much in the same way as its competitors Netflix and Amazon. Mode Media debuted its infrastructure investments to become a video distribution engine for creators and a discovery destination for viewers via personalized feeds. And Complex announced its partnership with 360fly, a virtual reality and 360-degree video company, to create VR content.
But rather than get overwhelmed by the influx of what partners can now offer (which is exciting and definitely warrants exploration), brands need to continue to focus on defining the values of their product (“story”) and how it relates to the values of their audience, and use that as a guide to who to partner with for the “telling.” And the telling is where we as media agencies need to continue to lead. How and Developing the how and where a story is told is just as critical as the story itself. Data uncovers unique and ingenious audience insights (interests, affinities, needs, desires and behaviors), that we then use to develop the right version of the brand story to tell on the right channel.
Second: Strategy is key. More specifically, content distribution strategy. While web celebrities and content have bloomed in digital and mobile, there’s still an aspiration and need for linear TV, as seen with Grace Helbig getting her own show on E!, Vice taking over AETN’s H2 network and AOL’s announcement of their partnership with NBCU to name a few from this year. At some point the content bubble will burst: more content means nothing if it isn’t being discovered, viewed and shared. The importance of the biggest screen in the home hasn’t gone away; brands need to work with partners who don’t just create more content, but have insights, technology and distribution partnerships and strategies to ensure success.
Third: the right content creation will reign supreme. Vevo’s announcement of a new reality competition series, Your Shot, a partnership between 7Up, Trium Entertainment and Vevo, shows how the right synergistic content development matters. It’s critically important for brands to leverage content in a fragmented environment: you will not be relevant to younger audiences if you don’t become an experience creator and tell stories in the right ways at the right time. Only when brand value + smart audience insights + solid content strategy + the right partner are added together will brands be successful in talking about what audiences want to hear in a credible and engaging way.
So although the Newfronts signaled an inflection point for content, a few things remain true: just like good weather, good storytelling still wins out, just like wearing sensible shoes, a smart content strategy is key to audience connection success, and the secret recipe to reigning supreme in content still starts with brand value + smart audience insights. Or if we go with Chef Bobby Flay’s secret favorite ingredient that helped him win the most Iron Chef competitions, it’s all about the Greek yogurt.
Mmm…Greek yogurt…now I’m hungry again.