Content is a huge part of my life, and now I am a judge for this year’s World Media Awards,  it is taking up even more of my thinking time as I anticipate the campaigns I’ll soon have the privilege of viewing in depth.  I understand firsthand the complexities and hard work involved in creating great content and will be interested to see if, like me, the companies entering the Awards are taking inspiration from outside the advertising industry.

As the world of advertising continues to fragment and become more complicated, we need to shift our thinking on how we create content campaigns.

Back in the day, when consumer choice comprised only a few TV channels, radio stations and newspapers, it was possible to understand the battle for the attention of viewers, listeners and readers in simple terms. Then the internet arrived, and with it came the rise of content. Brands discovered the old rules of advertising no longer applied.

Now we have multiple platforms and devices that are on 24-7, creating a beautiful TV spot or billboard poster isn’t enough and simple things like setting down a media plan and finding an ad agency are simple no more . Content has become the marketing mot du jour, but advertisers still struggle to understand what content to create, where to put it and how to get audiences to engage with it.

The added complication comes from the fact that advertisers are not just fighting other advertisers in the fight for consumer attention, but also against the behemoths of content. By this I mean the companies who’ve been creating content for decades and have a deep understanding of how to connect with and entertain an audience and keep them coming back. Broadcasters and publishers are the masters of the content universe; what companies such as The BBC, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist or Sky know so well is how to create products that people come back to day after day or week after week. They know how to create a habit in an audience and, through the power of that habit, build an ongoing relationship for their brands.

In the world of advertising the approach tends to be the opposite. It is about creating a campaign that gains a lot of attention in a short space of time to build brand awareness and then repeat it every now and then to remind consumers about the brand. That could well be why, for many marketers, there seems to be a struggle to understand content and to identify who are the best agencies and partners to create it with.

If you want a great 30-second spot or beautiful posters that communicates a marketing message succinctly and quickly then ad agencies are brilliant. However, developing ongoing content that repeats week after week requires a different skill and creative approach. Even when ad agencies have a content team, few of them seem to have this mindset.  They are still harking back to the tradition of campaigns rather than looking forward to learn from the real experts of content – the broadcasters, publishers and production companies.

Building new habits within an audience is something that is still evolving (think about how Netflix’s ‘binge’ approach has changed the way we view things massively) but it is at the heart of successful content. Ongoing, repeatable online video series, podcasts, social media entertainment or TV shows are designed to keep the audience coming back for more regularly – in some cases, even hourly. Think about the radio show you tune into every day, or the last TV or podcast series you downloaded, or the website you visit every morning. Those content creators have placed themselves at the heart of your content habit. Brands need to shift their thinking and do the same.

Indeed, brands have the potential to wrestle the content crown from today’s masters. Pepsi’s advertising budget far exceeds the programme commissioning budget of most TV networks. This means that the resource is there but the mindset needs to follow, placing the brand within a consumer’s daily content habit. That means learning from the experts in the information and entertainment arena and using the agencies and production companies who are leading the way in these spaces – and these are organisations that probably don’t usually feature in the advertising sector.

Consumers are likely to be just as happy with great sports-related content, whether it comes from Nike or Sky – the challenge for the likes of Nikes is that the measure of success needs to be not how many people have downloaded their latest video, but how many will download the next one, and the one after that.

It is only when brands finally succeed at repeatable, habit-forming content that they will be able to truly say that they’ve learnt from the masters and understood the rules of engagement. I hope that in this year’s World Media Awards we will see more entries from advertisers and agencies that have recognised the value of this approach – I suspect there will only be a few, but I bet their results will be fantastic!

Entry to the World Media Awards, the only awards to celebrate cross-border, content-driven advertising, is now closed –the shortlisted entries for each category will be announced on Wednesday 21st February.


Steve Ackerman

Steve Ackerman


Steve Ackerman, Managing Director at Somethin’ Else and judge at the World Media Awards