My panel at Ad:Tech – Content and its Context in Digital Media

Ben Shepherd writes: Duff from ad2One, Vivek from Lonely Planet and Julian from Time Out took part in the Content and its Context in Digital Media panel at Ad:Tech Sydney on Wednesday afternoon.

The turnout was reasonable and I think we covered some good ground. I wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate some of the points I made for anyone who was there or anyone who missed it but was curious.

1/ Eyeballs alone isn’t what attracts advertisers, it’s content AND eyeballs. Context is important … advertisers aren’t just looking for straight numbers … they want qualified audience in premium environments. So what does this mean – well … can we stop using blanket, irrelevant statements like we have x thousand users … what we (ie media and communication agencies) want to know is deeper details about your audience and how they consume content. Because of this point, my belief is the best content will prevail as the best content can’t be commoditised … but eyeballs can.

2/ Clutter is a by-product of bad sales/commercialisation. I made the point that no one has asked for some frontpages to have 15-20 different ad messages on it. No user and no advertiser. It’s the publishers that have driven this and personally they are shortchanging both of their customers. The issue is kind of simple – the more ads you have on a page, the more you devalue the ad space, which in turn means you need to run more ads to try and generate the extraction per pageview that people are expecting as you are generating less money per ad space. Then it gets ridiculous when publishers start running pop unders as well. Here’s a tip – spend more time training your sales team and trying to quantify the true value of your audience. Then you might be able to justify a decent CPM. This might lose me some sales people friends but I am constantly shocked at the lack of ability of most sales organisations to rationalise their share of spend and the cost of their media. How hard can it be?

3/ Ads are content.  Advertising placed on a site I think contributes to peoples perceptions of the media brand … it’s effectively content … no different to how ads in a magazine like Vogue are like content in that magazine. I raised the experience of a large publisher coming into me and selling their teenage girl site. They told me how connected they were with this audience and how in tune they were with them and the content they liked … unfortunately the page example they showed me had a Welcome back Tiger Ad from Pfizer for Viagra. An ad aimed at men aged over 50 on a teen girl site. Yeah … they know their audience! So – what does it say about a ‘high end’ media brand if they’re running ads for the cheapest credit card, or the cheapest prepaid mobile, or P&O cruises? Not good things surely … And what does it say to advertisers? Does Mercedes Benz really want to run their brand ads next to Dodo?

4/ The barriers to producing content are low – brands can become content creators and distributors. I don’t think we covered this as much as we could have (only had 45 mins) but brands now can become content providers and many are already doing this. I referenced the Optus Biz Think Tank as well as Special K’s ‘Map My Fitness’ as excellent examples of brands creating something innovative and unique. Add to this initiatives such as Ford’s Tonk A Pom, JL Krafts kitchen vignettes, Virgin Mobile’s new Right Music Wrongs concept – many of these are far more interesting than media content and incorporate the brand beautifully. I made the comment that media publishers better realise their USP quick smart otherwise clever brands will start creating their own and using the web and search as a way of driving instant audience. The idea of a media gatekeeper is redundant.

5/ Supply is infinite. The amount of supply in terms of eyeballs and digital advertising is effectively infinite. As a result pricing moves more into the area of straight supply and demand … which will only lead one way, down. For years publishers have been able to charge whatever they have wanted with very little justification … this has to change. Here’s the rub though – great content and context is FINITE … hence it is extremely valuable and advertisers will want to be around it. The challenge – show the value. The digital world isn’t a monopoly/duopoly like the TV and newspaper worlds. The era of gouging is over but those with the best content and the best story will be successful.

6/ Content doesn’t just have to be the words/pictures that ads are run alongside. This is more from an agency perspective … but the most valuable content for me is real, meaty information about the audience. What motivates them? What are they reading? How? When? Why? How often do they come back? How old are they? Do they interact with the content? The sort of things that tell me about the audience and what makes them tick. Why do we need to know this? So we can create relevant advertising, not dumb interference.

7/ Great content is more important than ever. Content is vitally important and professional content isn’t going anywhere … but the lines between pro and amateur content will blur. Vivek pointed out that there’s a lot of bad professional content and a lot of good amateur content and vice versa and he’s completely right. Still, we all agreed that great content is what distinguises media brands and there should be a premium paid for those who can deliver this and meaningful audience connections.

8/ More transperency needed. Cam Curtis from Allure made this point and I agreed with him. There does need to be more transperency between agencies and publishers if we’re to get the best results . My only comment was for this to happen both agency and publisher require the same agenda – getting the best for the client. If the agency is trying to get the best possible outcome for the client but the publisher is trying to extract the highest possible amount of dollars from the agency then it won’t work. Agenda’s need to be aligned and the agenda needs to be around solving business objectives.

Again thanks to Beth and Jenny for getting me involved.


3 responses to “My panel at Ad:Tech – Content and its Context in Digital Media

  1. Content not ads. Agree entirely. Well, the way I said it. 🙂

  2. nice post mark…agree on most points 🙂 your point about context is’s not just about awareness and eyeballs..that’s for sure…

  3. Here here.

    And a quick flick around any TV channel is testament to the fact there is plenty of average content produced by professionals.

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