Why advertising has a part to play in engaging digital story-telling

camp fire

camp fire

Media content has evolved dramatically over the last 70 years, and the models traditionally used to fund such content are only just keeping up. The vast array of content today would probably overwhelm those pioneers who celebrated the first television broadcast back in 1928.

Nearly 100 years later and instant access to an unlimited wealth of information is an intrinsic part of many of our daily lives. It is almost impossible to imagine a world without TV, or the internet, and – that equally feared and admired suave cousin that is always at every party – advertising.

The rise of media broadcasting would simply not have been as exponential if not for the patronage of companies spending on advertising. For the broadcasters, it evolved into a relatively straight-forward funding model, in which they pay upfront, and take on much of the risk. The advertiser then pays to have their advert broadcast during a particular show, preferably during “prime time”, to an established audience. The broadcaster thus recoups the cost of producing that show through the sale of advertising space, generally over an extended period of time.

This system is still very much in place today, with content providers having to answer to the ever-hallowed “ratings” of the show, but, in a similarly exponential rate, the media landscape is changing and sweeping the audience along with it. The economic focus is now moving away from the mass consumption of a few, hugely popular products, to that of the niche interests of the individual — an economic concept coined by former Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson in “The Long Tail”, named after the shape of the demand curve.

The creative industries are all facing this economic shift together, but where some may view the new market demands as a problem, others are realising the potential of this opportunity to focus on the quality and not the number of customer relationships.

The simple question is this: in the absence of the traditional investor (broadcaster, publisher etc), who will invest upfront, take the risk and wait for the money to trickle in over time? Whether it be “low-cost” selfpublishing solutions, or trickles of money from the App stores, someone has to go first. Advertisers will have to take that same leap in imagination as was required with the advent of television advertising in the 1950s — however, in a totally different direction.

A 360-degree approach across technology platforms, different digital media, as well as collaboration between advertisers, broadcasters and production companies will be key to mastering these new, individualised brand-customer relationships. With so much choice now available to most of the population, being able to meet specific needs whilst offering relevance will be vital.

Branded entertainment will need to engage viewers in a totally interactive way to capture and maintain their attention in a meaningful way. With personal technology advancing the way it is, the challenge isn’t the content, or even the media, but rather the willingness to find new ways to share risk and value creation amongst all the role players.

Glenn Gillis will be speaking at the Content 2013 conference.



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