By Lon Otremba
Delray Beach, Florida
May you live in interesting times.
-- Sir Austen Chamberlain
Chamberlain’s quote supposedly references an ancient Chinese curse, hurled as an insult when someone’s life got too boring. Well, given the pace of change in modern society these days, it’s certain we’re living in interesting times right now. And it would be difficult to imagine a more interesting time than what those of us in the technology and media worlds are experiencing.
Rapid advances in technology and their integration into everyday life has accelerated societal change and modified human behavior at an exciting and, sometimes, overwhelming rate. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the fundamental change in how we now consume media and content.
To put the scale of this change in perspective, I was reflecting recently on my own experiences. When I was a kid, I would spend hours in front of the television every week, watching Saturday morning cartoons. What’s more is that I knew my friends were sitting in their living rooms watching the exact same shows. We didn’t have a choice.
Media companies were in complete control of the content being pushed to consumers, and brands controlled the marketing messages through commercials on TV and print ads in magazines and newspapers. So not only were they controlling what content, but they were also controlling the when and where of consumption.
If you stop and think about it, this entire structure was extremely interruptive to the consumer experience and often did not align with individual interests.
Society has shifted away from the push media model to a pull media world.
But the Internet has changed all that. We now live in an always-on, connected world, where massive computing power can be carried in our pockets and media of all types can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
This has caused a fundamental change in consumer behavior, which is no easy feat. No longer living in a time with limited networks and media companies, society has shifted away from the push media model to a pull media world where consumers are in complete control of the content they engage with, and reject experiences that are not relevant or interesting to them.
How brands interacted with consumers in the old model, the push model, really meant that they were just along for the ride. As media networks were in control, they made a place for brands to participate. But in the new world order of pull media, consumers are in complete control, so the advertiser must be more proactive in aligning with the consumer than ever before.
This makes it crucial for brands to be one step ahead of their customers by understanding their behaviors, habits, wants and needs.
So while it sounds simple and is certainly something that we all take advantage of every day, how has this actually been made to happen? And where is it going as we keep innovating and pushing the bounds of technology?
1. Regardless of the device or platform on which it appears, your content must be valuable to your user.
2. Focus on specialization around the content you provide based on the “how” and the “device.”
3. It’s not enough to create and optimize content regularly, you need to put it in front of the right consumers based on their consumption habits.
4. Understand your consumers’ engagement patterns in order to analyze where your brand is losing consumers throughout the content journey and optimize your storytelling, engagement, viewability, scroll rate etc. based on those insights.
5. Follow up the right content on the right devices and platforms with a paid distribution strategy -- and budget -- like native advertising.
What is truly transformative is the enablement of content on demand for consumers in a multitude of mediums - digital content, online video, streaming movies and TV shows, OOT etc. A great example of this is how we access information on the opening and closing of the financial markets. Once we were reliant on the morning and evening newspapers, now we simply open an app and have the numbers at our fingertips in real-time.
Sophisticated technology has evolved so quickly, that yesterday’s problem for brands of reaching relevant consumers at scale is just that: yesterday’s problem. Advanced technology around targeting, ad assembly, and scaled distribution are now all in one place and happening in conjunction, making advanced content executions across platforms and devices possible.
With consumers now in complete control of deciding when they will engage with media, brands need to first understand that the content they want consumers to engage with has to be relevant at the exact time the consumer needs it to be. As consumers are in control of the “when”, brands must assume their ads are relevant NOW. This shift in thinking is about brands creating deeply varied content libraries that can, in real time, be matched to consumer demand and relevance at the moment in time. This real-time advertising model may be new to brands, but it is most definitely the future.
Content must be valuable, relevant and tailored to the user’s interests in that moment.
Today, how people engage with content differs based on their media consumption habits and needs. While millennials may be partial to mobile, seniors to desktop, etc., the fact is that most people today utilize multiple devices to consume content, in some cases simultaneously (millennials are notorious for this). But no matter the device or the platform we all have one thing in common: the content must be valuable, relevant and tailored to the user’s interests in that moment.
Impatient consumers have high expectations and will only spend time-consuming content that offers a personalized experience. Companies are responding to these diverse behaviors by innovating to match and cater to each specific distribution environment.
Although the need to provide customized content experience has been recognized, it has been a struggle. For example, mobile is known for having a poor user experience because we haven't found the most effective way to render this content yet. However, mobile is evolving and quickly catching up to the desktop experience. There are many industry initiatives dedicated to enhancing mobile, such as Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles etc.
With the introduction of numerous devices, we have seen a divergence in content consumption experiences based on the device - desktop, mobile, tablet, etc. Consumers are always adopting emerging devices and platforms such as virtual reality, smart homes, Alexa, to name a few, which also require specialty experiences. As technology keeps moving forward, we will see more specialization around content based on the “how” and the “device.”
Every content strategy must be followed by a paid distribution strategy.
Developing and placing all content, both editorial as well as paid content, in exactly the right place at the right time is having a massively disruptive effect.
The marketing industry at large, and advertising, in particular, has spent the past twenty years focusing on optimizing the performance of the digital ad, not the content. But with the entire digital dynamic changing - the purchase process, consumer behavior, brand/consumer relationship - this approach to optimization will no longer suffice.
So, with the shift in consumption, a shift in content strategy and distribution is occurring in response. It is no longer sufficient to rely on consumers finding your brand’s content by themselves or reaching them organically on social media platforms like Facebook. Every content strategy must be followed by a paid distribution strategy.
It’s safe to say that almost every brand has a content strategy, or are at least creating content regularly, but few are just now putting this content in front of consumers based on their consumption habits. Digital media today is enabling real-time connection and brands need to think about ways to make it as easy as possible for consumers to fluidly engage with their content to take advantage of that.
An example of this real-time enablement involves how we consume TV and video content. The traditional structure for TV and video consumption involved multiple linear phases over the course of many months. But we are actively destroying these phases and disrupting this structure. Instead of seeing a film preview on TV and then going to the theater, we are going to movies directly from an ad and watching them on home screens.
When a consumer engages with their content, they engage with their brand.
The first step brands must take to successfully scale this is to understand consumers’ engagement patterns. Based on these insights brands can see where they are losing consumers throughout the content journey and can begin optimizing storytelling, engagement, viewability, scroll rate etc.
It’s become completely obvious that hitting a consumer with the right message is challenging, but the hardest part is eliciting the desired engagement from that message.
Getting to that point begins with the end user and requires brands to know the ins and outs of media consumption, and create content that matches what consumers will find valuable when and where they want to consume it. After all, every brand marketer knows that when a consumer engages with their content, they engage with their brand.
Lon Otremba joined Bidtellect as its CEO and Director in January 2014. He leads all aspects of the Company’s efforts, working closely with the management team and the Company’s board of directors. With over 20 years’ experience in media, Otremba is a veteran operating executive and adviser in the Internet publishing, mobile, and broadcast music industries and a well-known pioneer in interactive media. Bidtellect was shortlisted for a Native Advertising Award as Native Advertising Platform/Network of the Year and won a silver medal.
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