Thursday, May 01, 2008

Content? Context? Or, Control? Which One Really Rules?

“Content is King” is an overused phrase which we’re all too familiar with.

The word “Context” is quickly entering the vernacular as something of importance when developing a media plan.

Mike Bloxham wrote a nice piece about Content being King and Context being Queen in Wednesday’s Mediapost. Mike, being from Great Britain, would be the one to reference royalty when talking about advertising. Most, in this country, reference fertilizer when referring to the same subject.

But in honor of the upfront soon to be upon us and the new C3 measurement metric being bandied about, let me add a third ‘C” to the conversation.

This third “C” stands for Control.

My contention is that Control trumps both Content and Context in importance. And, in fact, when it comes to the digital platform,
Content must be created in Context of Control.

We are rapidly evolving into a future where we will have two types of advertising – the type which viewers have Control over and the type which viewers don’t have control over.

In case of the latter, advertising’s job will continue to be intrusive in nature - to interrupt whatever it is someone is enjoying. Since that person will have no Control in regards to fast-forwarding through the commercial, the job of the commercial is to intrude in such a manner as to arrest attention. And, if time permits, create interest.

In the case where the viewer has Control, and, in an ideal situation, has actually chosen to opt-in to watch the commercial, the job of the commercial is very different. The creative doesn’t need to attract attention. After all, the viewer has chosen to watch.

Interest has also been established by their clicking in. Basically, someone has knocked on the door of the brand and said, “Please tell me more.” When someone does that, the creative needs to treat them very differently. Not to mention, deferentially.

There is no reason to shout, yell, or, do goofy things to get attention.

After all, attention isn’t the goal. Involvement is.

A commercial who’s objective is to gain attention is a very different commercial from the one who’s objective is to involve. To that end, it must be created very differently from the get-go.

Which helps explain why re-purposing advertising that was designed to bust through the clutter that is mass media, has proven to be so horrendously inefficient when people opt-in to it.

The Content was not written in Context of Control.

Well, actually, the Content was written in Context of Control. But it was written under the assumption that the advertiser is the one who is in control.

In other words, it was written under false pretenses. And somehow, viewers can sense this.

So before media agencies go all gonzo over Context and convince advertisers that they have the answer to dwindling audiences, we need to look at reality as it really is, not as we would like it to be.

There are two types of advertising. The type that allows viewers to be in Control. And the type that doesn’t.

Advertisers need to start there, allowing their agencies to create Content accordingly.

Once they do that, then Context can enter the discussion. If, of course, advertisers still feel it’s necessary.

Many won’t. Because once an advertiser cedes Control to the viewer, an interesting thing happens. Their Context changes as to how advertising works.

It’s the viewer who’s King.

Advertising's job now, like it or not, is to serve.

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