Content Is King, Context Is Kingmaker

Not much endures in the digital maelstrom, but one thing has remained consistent: content is still king. Great programming and smart brand integration is powerful. However, that’s only part of the solution. Context is what will truly make consumers take notice of our clients’ content.

Context is the kingmaker.

Remember the old days (around the turn of the century), when advertisers tried to grab attention by being intrusive? If we caught our consumers off-guard, the thinking went, that would give us the impact needed to gain attention. Disruption was the popular term coined to describe this invasive advertising.

Alas, it has become ineffective, as consumers turn off quicker than ever before. That's due to the fact we’ve become an “on-demand” society, consuming content when we want. Perhaps this is also driven by our tiny attention spans, now shorter than that of a goldfish. (I did not make that up!)



Which brings us back to context-driven advertising, the vital key in connecting the consumer emotionally to your brand’s message, engaging them and reducing their aversion to your message. The end of irrelevant ads is here.

But what does ‘context’ really mean, from an advertising perspective? Well, it could refer to the consumer’s literal location when they see the ad, or the time of day in which they see it. Or it could be the media channel on which the ad appears, and the content that surrounds it.

Contextual relevance is the term often associated with native advertising, programmatic buying and addressable TV. It can be interest- or geo-based targeting, as well as cookie-profile targeting. All of this context reduces the friction to consume more of the same.

A recent study by The Guardian found that when an ad appears in a contextually relevant environment (think of an airline marketing on a travel site), it causes 23% more people to believe the product benefits them, and 18% more people to feel positive toward the advertiser. Research has also shown that purchase and recommendation intent increases dramatically when the emotional tone of an ad matches the emotional tone of the content.

But let’s not forget the actual content itself, in whatever form it comes in. While the implications on production, complexity and cost are great, the ability to provide relevant content (by channel, time of day, mood) is critical to capture consumer attention.

And if you believe that context overrides content, just give it six months; what we’ll see next is subtext. We’ll have cracked contextual relevance and we’ll have moved on into subtext, the true meaning of what you’re trying to convey, using advanced data analytics, to effectively target and engage the consumer.

This pursuit of relevance also speaks to something I have always encouraged: close collaboration between agencies. Only when there is a true partnership, can media and creative effectively create compelling context in which to place great content.

So while content is king, context should be crowned the next king in succession. This will ensure our clients’ marketing campaigns not only reach the right consumer, but engage and persuade them to interact with the brand in ways that drive results. And I don’t believe this discipline can be automated.

This will be one of those innate skills that clients will require from their agency partners now and in the future. This will be an intellectual property that will give us media agencies value to ensure our survival.

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