These are hard times for anyone involved in advertising and media. Media owners want to charge for content as ad revenues disappear and audiences become harder to reach. Brands want to reach this ever-fragmenting audience with increasingly limited budgets.
But interruption is dead - and the old model of adjacency doesn't work. Consumers won't view a banner ad, as it gets in the way of the content experience. They are immersed in a Web 2.0 world of distributed content, yet media and advertising are stuck in a Web 1.0 approach of appearing before, during, or alongside the media, but not being the media. Bigger, longer, more intrusive banner ads and pop-ups represent a static offline approach to an online world.
The only way to reach consumers is to provide useful and/or entertaining content. Brands must be the content, be the media, and become publishers.
At the recent PRWeek NEXT Conference, Uni-lever's marketing commu-nications director Christine Cea lamented the passing of Gourmet (which was re-cently revived as an iPad app). But there's no reason Unilever's food brands couldn't own a media property such as Gourmet.
Single sponsor brands can rescue the publishing industry in one heroic cavalry-like charge. Iconic media brands such as Gourmet could continue to offer its highly committed audience content it cherishes. Relevant single sponsors now have a way to connect with audiences by becoming the channel - not standing adjacent to it.
What's more, they can develop all manner of extended channels to reach the audience wherever the audience wants it. Imagine if a brand such as Monsanto or ConAgra created Farmville - you can't buy that kind of advertising.
This isn't a new idea. Years ago, Waitrose, a high-end UK grocery chain, took over the publishing of ailing Food Illustrated and turned it into a very successful product called Waitrose Food Illustrated.
In fact, Michelin realized this decades ago when it decided it had the authority to publish restaurant reviews that are now held in such high regard, French chefs will literally kill themselves if they get a bad review/lose a star. Anyone can buy a million impressions. But in this post-impressionist, post-ad world of engagement, brands can create much deeper, longer-lasting, and more cost-effective levels of engagement than the previous adjacency model.
Simon Kelly is COO of digital content marketing agency Story Worldwide.