Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The best content in the world

(Heron Island, AU - photo credit)
A while back I wrote a few bits about some of the ways that technology is going to make people's lives simpler: mostly concentrating on improving the bits of people's lives that revolve around people, information and entertainment (ie the good bit). The great thing that technology does is make connections with all these things much easier and faster. The problem for the traditional providers of information and entertainment is that technology allows people to miss out all the annoying ads that interupt what they are looking for. As technology gets smarter, this might well move from 'ability to avoid' to 'preset to ignore'. If the amount of available and personalised content exceeds your attention span, but your devices are able to filter it based on learnt preferences, then an advertisement has to be better than a programme (to use a TV analogy) before your devices will even recommend it. (BTW your devices WILL know more about what you want to watch than you will ever need to).

This causes a problem for brands, who have tended towards interuption of content to gain attention. The idea of branded content (which to me means informational or entertainment content that is at least as good as the best of non-branded content) has seemed like a holy grail to the media agency business, and one which has largely been diluted by ad-funded OFCOM regulated quasi-sponsorships on TV, or tactical product placement exercises online. Ads that are better then programmes are still either unrealistic or regulated out of existance (in the UK anyway).

So what has changed?
If you've seen much news in the last few months you'll know that a British bloke has blagged a job as the caretaker of an island on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. And that there was a recruitment campaign the first day back to work in January, then 35,000 entries uploaded, then a swim/blog/lounge-off for the shortlist in Queensland. As well as a some £50m worth of PR for the Queensland Tourist Board who commissioned the campaign and a Cannes Grand Prix for
CumminsNitro who created it. Not to mention 6 months on an island for Ben Southall who won.

And more importantly for the purposes of this post, the BBC have commissioned an hour of documentary about the selection process (which cleverly took place on some of the most beautiful islands that the tourist board looks after). This airs on Thursday at 9pm on BBC2 - primetime BBC real estate. This isn't ad-funded programming, this is ad-inspired programming - a campaign so good it inspires commissioning editors to join in, producing content that is all about marketing the destination (the whole point of the campaign).

(Slight tangent - I was going to put a link in this post to Marcus Brown's Content Manifesto, because it takes the future of agencies and tourist board marketing to the logical creative extreme, and so seemed relevant. But Marcus has turned the site into a book so I can't.)


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