“You still need your Daddy. You just don’t need as much sugar.”
For years, consumers have been watching TV shows, reading magazines, flipping through newspapers, listening to radio stations and more. They tuned in, turned on, and flipped their way to happiness. Best of all, outside of minimal subscription costs or low cable access fees, they didn’t even really have to pay for it.
But it had a cost. A rather large one, actually.
The actors were paid. The writers were paid. The photographers were paid. The people who operated massive printing presses were paid. The guy who wore the headset and operated the studio camera the size of a pickup truck was paid. And the measly $2.99 magazine contribution at the local 7-11 didn’t do a hell of a lot to offset the real costs of production. Luckily, they had a Sugar Daddy: Advertising.
As a marketer, you and your budgets treated them to the experiences they really wanted to see, read and hear. The trade off was they would get the stuff they really wanted and all they had to do was be interrupted along the way with your messages.
When they wanted to watch re-runs of Who’s the Boss? at 2am just to hear Tony Danza wrestle with the word “Samantha”, advertising whipped out its credit card and paid for it. Then, something changed.
1. The Cost of production
The costs of production and distribution for our entertainment needs came down. Radically. Now, anyone can publish. Anyone can record. Anyone can shoot. And it can all be distributed to 10 for almost the same cost as getting it to 10 million.
2. The Rise of Niche Interests
When it comes to content choices, niche audiences no longer have to eat at the lowest common denominator buffet. Media choices that serve a smaller group of people with more specific interests are readily available. Like knitting? Well, now there’s a Youtube Channel, an e-magazine and countless blogs that can fill your day with content. Now we have the same number of eyeballs in many more places.
3. Hyper Word of Mouth
Word of mouth has always been the most powerful form of advertising because we all trust our friends and family far more than a biased ad. But it had its limitations. Outside of daily interactions, consumers could only tell so many people. Well, now they can tell millions in minutes. Finally, the strength of a product is more important than the cleverness of its ads.
4. The Clutter Clause.
As more platforms emerged, advertising responded by placing more messages in more spaces. While effective in the short term, this only added to the clutter and made consumers more sensitive to being repeatedly pitch slapped throughout their day. They responded by seeking advertising free environments just to take a break from it all.
5. Valuing Value.
As consumers lives became more and more cluttered, they have sought simplicity and value. They want products and services that make their life easier and for the most part, advertising doesn’t really meet that need. They’d rather Starbucks invest in an app that lets them pay with their phone than an ad to tell them about it.
While Tarantino budgets went a long way to producing compelling advertising, production values are now being trumped by authenticity. McDonald’s produced the hit campaign of the year and they actually made it stronger and more compelling by keeping production costs at a minimum. They didn’t need a carefully crafted script, they didn’t need to fly in a Director from Copenhagen, they didn’t need a special effects budget. They just needed their honesty.
Is advertising dead? Of course not. Content still has to be paid for.
It’s not that advertising isn’t as effective as it used to be.
It’s that it’s not as important as it used to be.
It needs consumers more than consumers need it.
Consumers have always shown up for the content.
Smart brands realize that. Smarter brands invest in it.
Brands have to be media companies. And media companies have to be brands.
Welcome to the age of Content Marketing.