An overdose of anything is not good. Does that apply to the amount of what passes of as ‘content’ put out by brands too? The word content can refer to any piece of paid or unpaid creative across platforms: TV commercials, print ads, YouTube videos, Reels & Shorts, social media posts, blogs, WhatsApp campaigns, webinars, videos culled from such events…and so on. ‘A content piece a day’ seems to be the norm.
There was a time when large advertisers invested on annual thematic ad campaigns interspersed with tactical ads related to promotions and festival advertising. Sometimes, such theme ads would run for years with only a ‘refreshing’ of the core creative idea. Nowadays, the thinking seems to be that consumers have to be fed with fresh content ever so often and that’s perhaps the reason why marketers invest more in creative outputs. believe see everything – a festival, news event, an occasion as a reason to advertise. Everything – a festival, news event, an occasion is seen as a reason to advertise. Sure, as Byron Sharp says a brand’s ability to be mentally and physically available to its consumers is a key aspect of a brand’s success. Brand salience is important, no doubt – out of sight, out of mind and all that.
I would argue that salience is not just a function of spends and ‘share of voice’ in a category. A memorable ad, a distinct ‘ownable’ brand asset or a unique brand association can aid brand recall much more than just brute money power of media spends. ‘Don’t outspend competition, outwit them’ is a quote from the legendary Ravi Gupta, founder of Trikaya Advertising.
Rare gems or a content factory?
In popular culture too, we see different approaches from content creators. Some creative minds – writers, film makers, poets or meme makers are prolific and churn out stuff by the dozen. Being prolific is a good (and enviable) trait. And some are extremely good at ti. Advertising veteran and supremely talented copywriter, George Tannenbaum apparently, writes one bog post every day. But then not all of us have that extraordinary talent. I am also not suggesting that all those who are prolific create poor quality output. But the probability of inconsistent quality is high, especially when artificial KPIs are thrust upon brands. These include specifying the number of social media posts a week or insisting that every ‘moment marketing’ opportunity must be ‘tapped’ – relevance to the brand or a business connect be damned.
There are exceptions to every rule. Before the advent of social media, Amul used to produce a new outdoor design perhaps every fortnight (or was it a week?). They were topical, fun and had a fixed position (in terms of outdoor space). So one used to literally look out for a new piece of creative at that spot. With the advent of social media and a fast moving news cycle, Amul Topicals have perhaps increased in frequency. The credit goes to the creative team for producing more ‘hits’ than misses in their repertoire.
‘Brands must see themselves as publishers‘ has been a popular advice over the last few years, since the rise of content marketing. But it has been taken far too seriously to mean ‘publish something…anything, as long as a steady frequency is maintained’. Even among bloggers, I have noticed that there are those who write occasionally but that one piece will be staggeringly good. I guess the same rule applies for authors too. It is better to make one’s audience yearn for your next piece of work rather than take one for granted. Too much content, that too bland ones, is like wallpaper – very easy to ignore.
Not all brands can emulate Red Bull or Nike
The golden rule of advertising – even before content marketing became a buzzword was to produce work that not only was a good fit for that medium but also was as good as the best ‘non-commercial’ work over there. If good music and conversation was expected from radio, what interrupts it better be as good.
That’s why a good jingle or well-produced conversation-driven radio spot which made the best use of the audio medium was not seen (or heard?) as an irritant. A badly produced radio spot, on the other hand makes one hate advertising. Reaching for the TV remote to either mute the ads or switch channels is also a function of ads failing to capture the imagination of the viewer. A well-written print ad in a medium which you have bought precisely for that reason – a good read, make sense.
A timeless truth is Howard Gossage’s quote from the 1950s: ‘People don’t read ads. They read what interests them. Sometimes, it’s an ad‘. One can extrapolate it to today’s platforms. Doesn’t the same logic apply to YouTube, Instagram, web banners or Twitter? In fact, its a lot tougher to produce clutter-breaking ‘advertising’ in such platforms as user-generated content is far more interesting. Anyone who has scrolled through Instagram Reels will see many thumb-stopping videos from general public. One has to marvel at the creativity and slick production of such videos. Can all brands or do all brands match up to these efforts? Definitely lot.
Media content that is ‘on brand’, compelling and matching the best of the ‘adjacent’ content is rare. Yet, we see run-of-the-mill efforts which tick the box of media presence. In chasing consistent SOV, ensuring recall value for the brand, what is being sacrificed is distinctive advertising.