Advertising is moving toward content -- and to do so, it has to tap into the issues that resonate with the public. The WMG sums it up as advertisers having to adapt to the need for brand activism.
We've all heard a million times before that advertisers need to stand for something, to find a cause or a belief they can tap into in order to demonstrate their corporate values are aligned to what makes their customers tick.
I'm always a little hesitant to go the whole hog and sign up to this theory because no matter what people say, they still always seem to end up shopping with Amazon -- not necessarily for its corporate values but more because of the convenience. One-click purchasing usually means a consumer does not need to check where a brand stands on the use of palm oil or single-use plastics.
However, there is an interesting part to what the WMG has to say about brand activism and that four in five of the senior advertising execs, publishers and brand managers they surveyed agree that content advertising is set to grow in importance. It must be pointed out, of course, that the WMG is comprised of publishers and media companies, and so they do have a dog in this proverbial fight.
The research found that nine in ten of those surveyed expect greater use of podcasts, voice activation, audio and a doubling down on personalisation. Whereas their content effort usually revolves around brand awareness, the research also shows a rise in advertisers feeling they need to change perceptions of their brand to align it to key issues.
Brand engagement is still the top consideration, but we have this desire to shift perceptions of a brand and to make it stand for something coming up strongly on the rails.
This means advertisers are looking for quality editorial to rub shoulders with as their top priority, followed by audience profiling and audience engagement.
There isn't much detail on what issues advertisers are picking out to align themselves with, but the overall takeaway is that success depends on taking a big global issue and then adapting it to local markets through international agency networks.
One can imagine the environment must be top of the agenda, and perhaps diversity and inclusion.
The point is that four in five respondents realise they need to rely more on content than they have done in the past to change brand perceptions, and so it is imperative that a subject that resonates with readers is selected.
I've certainly noticed that business sections are beginning to offer sponsored articles that raise issues an advertiser wants be associated with. There have been sections sponsored in national newspapers and their sites recently on apprenticeships, encouraging STEM subjects at school and workplace well being, striking the balance between work and home and improving mental health.
So if there is a development that springs out of this research and what we are all probably seeing in the media, it has to be this desire to spend more on content marketing so a brand is part of the reading, listening or viewing experience -- not just screaming out of a banner for attention.
To do this, the content must be relevant to the issues the audience holds dear.
When four in five media and agency executives agree this is the way things are going, we have to take note.
It doesn't mean unreservedly signing up to the view that consumers will only deal with activist brands, but it does mean acknowledging that to attract attention in this new media landscape, talking about a business and how great its products are does not work.
It's about association with the issues that matter -- not taking sales pitches from banners and placing them inside articles.