“Most of life is average and expected. A small percentage is awesome. A greater percentage is total crap.”
“Advertising is like your profile pic’ analogy, ‘at least 30% more attractive than you.”
“If it’s watchable, evocative & shareable, it travels the globe. And this is the very foundation of Content.”
“What’s content? The jump from the edge of space by Felix Baumgartner. That’s Content. Brought to you by Red Bull.”
“Bad content is as useless to any brand as bad advertising is.”
“Too many brands set out to tell you everything, and in that, destroy the mystique.”
That is the Gospel of Content according to Alistair King, Twitter handle @AlSparkles, co-founder and creative partner of the King James Group who rocked the house at Content 2013: The Whole Story. His sparkling one-liners formed the basis for some serious thinking on the subject of ‘content’, and how to ‘demystify’ it.
The problem, he told The Media Online after his talk, is that the more you delve deeply into the subject, the more confusing it gets. And it shouldn’t. Because content has been around for as long as advertising. “Content is not new. It’s 130 years of advertising rebranded. Repackaged for digital,” he says.
The elements of marketing are embedded in the ‘content’ concept. That’s events, activations, editorial, advertorial, PR, advertising all wrapped up in today’s technical jargon, which is where the confusion comes in. “It’s not radically new and risky,” says King.
In preparing for his talk, King pulled a series of ads to look at them from a content perspective, and then looked at good content. “To my horror, I found ads to be constipated and uptight. The content was intelligent, provocative and involving,” he says. “Why is there a difference? Ads are boring and predictable, and content is liberated.”
His prediction? “Content is the saviour of advertising.” But of course, nothing is as simple as that. In talking about the content on Coca-Cola’s website, which is pretty awesome, King points out that Coke’s budget is big enough to ‘inspire the world’.
Where clever content comes in is when small budgets but big ideas come into play. That needs “old fashioned discipline”, says King. “There are very few Coca-Colas. The reset of the world is subject to rules and processes.”
King warns that it’s no good shoving loads of content into cyberspace. “There’s a tendency to rush out and fill the world with content. That’s not a noble goal. Nothing will kill creative content faster than filling the void with self-indulgent pieces of film. A good idea is at the heart of content. How it unravels is the game I’m in.”
He uses as an example the wonderful “blackmail” he pulled over the Nando’s and Santam ad spoofs that could have become nasty, but instead had the nation in stitches. And, of course, talking about both brands.
Nando’s spoofed the Santam Ben Kingsley ad. Kingsley stands at a bar, while the waiter behind him comes and goes, subtly changing his clothing each time. In the Nando’s spoof, a local actor takes off Kingsley, while Nando’s meals on the counter undergo very obvious changes.
Santam immediately replied with another ad, challenging Nando’s to deliver food to a children’s home within a specified time frame. Nando’s did so.
“There’s no limitation to how to land a good idea,” says King. “Even blackmail! But the reason behind the success of that exchange was that it was spontaneous and immediate.”
King believes there is some resistance to content by clients, particularly in the above the line sector, who look at it as a “massive adventure”. But, says King, it depends on what they’re selling. “Digital is largely inaccessible to a large number of South Africans so if you’re trying to sell products in a township, content is not what you’re spending your budget on. But those that live a digital life embrace it,” he says.
He reiterates that aloofness is “quite desirable”. That “mystery is what makes it desirable”. “Look at Johnny Depp. He’s great. He’s not on Twitter giving us a blow by blow account of what he’s doing. It’s what makes him interesting. Then look at Piers Morgan and Donald Trump…”
Content companies can be reckless, and that “erodes” the brands they’re supposed to be promoting. “Mystery is interesting. Allen Gray is one of our clients. We don’t feed reams of information about them. If you pay attention, and read the newspapers, you’ll know who they are and what they do.”
And that’s it. An outline of content, demystified. With mystery at its heart.