Content Gets Less Royal
Content, content, content. That's the hot topic these days. As consumers warm to media that allow them to control the flow of information directed at them, it leaves a marketer with the conclusion that the only way to get back its audience's attention is to be the content rather than the advertising surrounding the content.
As this embedded advertising movement takes root, the danger is that content becomes less the king everyone proclaims it to be and can wind up more like advertising disguised as information. In talking to David Berkowitz, director of strategic planning at search/performance marketing firm 360i, it hit me how slippery this "infotainment" slope can be. He mentioned that Fidelity Investments now does podcasts on financial topics to communicate directly with prospects. If Fidelity continues to invest in this type of content creation, at what point might it appear to be less an investment firm and more an investment publisher, like Kiplinger, Berkowitz posited? It's tricky in this new media world.
My bias is showing when I say I don't think embedded advertising is the solution to poor advertising/marketing results. But as I've had a stake in the content provision business for more than a decade, please hear me out. The best example of how the infotainment movement could backfire in marketers' faces can be seen on television. Given that Nielsen Media Research estimates that 18 percent of the U.S. market will use DVRs by the end of 2006, it's no wonder that advertising influence is creeping more boldly into programming. I'm not talking about the subtlety of a box of brand-name cereal sitting on the kitchen table while the TV family has breakfast. No, placement is far more in your face, with scriptwriters weaving the product and company names into the dialogue of the show. For example, in an episode of one of my favorite dramas, "Medium," the producers forced the lead character and her husband to not only tell viewers they were going to see the movie, "Memoirs of a Geisha," but to then discuss whether they liked it as they left the movie theater set. I realize U.S. culture is celebrity-obsessed and that stars can influence product trial and brand swapping. But this Gen Xer found the ploy so completely obvious that it was a turn-off and made me question whether I wanted to continue to watch a show that had sold out. My allegiance to "Medium" will end if the show starts to feel more like an ad than entertainment.