Content is key to winning, says Sorrell at #AWXI

After news broke that Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank is in talks to buy DreamWorks Animation, content creation took up much of the discussion between WPP CEO Martin Sorrell and his group of panelists at Advertising Week.

After news broke that Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank is in talks to buy DreamWorks Animation, content creation took up much of the discussion between WPP CEO Martin Sorrell and his group of panelists at Advertising Week on Monday.

"The significance of [the potential DreamWorks deal] is content," said Sorrell, who opened the 11th annual Advertising Week in New York City with an event called Winning. "[WPP] sees this as one of the big opportunities for agencies."

Panelists included Eric Johnson, EVP of global multimedia sales for ESPN; CBS Interactive president and CEO Jim Lanzone; Russell Wallach, president of Live Nation Network; and Lisa Utzschneider, VP of global advertising sales at Amazon.

Despite the differences among the represented companies, each is highly focused on content creation. Along with developing original content such as new TV series Transparent, Amazon encourages its customers to create content. The biggest example of this is Amazon’s customer reviews, which the company has also integrated into its advertising program, Utzschneider explained.

When Sorrell asked the panelists whether brands should create their own content or invest in sponsored content on other channels, the consensus was a combination of both.

"The notion of native advertising is over the top," said Johnson, who pointed out that the development of branded content has been happening for a long time.

While sponsored content is not new, the recent popularity of native advertising demonstrates a shift in how brands are approaching marketing, Wallach said.

"Before, it was all about product placement," he explained. "Now, whether brands create their own content or partner with others to do so, there’s more concern about the audience and whether the brand’s content resonates."

Consumers "don’t think about" whether content is branded, Wallach continued. "They just feel good about a brand that enhanced their experience."

Other highlights from the panel:

Asked about global expansion, Johnson said ESPN is focused on the Americas, particularly Latin America.

In those regions, ESPN "will be seen more as a technology company that covers sports," he explained. "We spend a lot of time not trying to go to market as a sports company."

There is also a big sports opportunity in the US with the growing popularity of soccer, he added.

What is the biggest challenge to working with agencies? Wallach said it can be confusing to work with multiple agencies on various marketing disciplines. This brought a smile to Sorrell’s face, who slyly pointed to the Team WPP approach, which brings together multiple agencies in the holding company to work on one client.

On WPP’s plans for growth: Sorrell said the holding company is most focused on emerging markets, new media, and data.

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