Wake up and smell the content

Last week we send out a tweet that seemed to stir up some pretty strong reactions. In the spirit of open discussion we invited some of those who disagreed with the statement to put their point of view across in a blog post.

There’s not doubt ‘content’ is a hot topic at the moment, so we’d like to invite you to join this conversation and add your own thoughts and comments around the subject.

We’d like to point out that this post does not reflect the views and opinions of CS, we are a neutral facilitator of this conversation.



Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 14.51.12

Creative Social posted this pronouncement, from PJ Pereira, taken from his presentation at Cannes. We trolled them on Twitter, and they asked us to write this post.

If marketing is all about conversation these days, then fair enough, we started this one by marching over and poking them in the centre of the chest.

We’re not angry people. It takes a lot to wind us up. But this felt like the final intolerable gust of bullshit to emanate from Cannes, which, thanks to Twitter, is an odour detectable at a distance of a thousand miles. To be fair to Mr. Pereira, his quote had been taken out of context. The full slide went something like ‘Think like a marketer. Behave like an entertainer. Move like a startup.’ But still.

There are few things we take issue with here. Firstly, what is content? Is content just entertainment? Is content advertising, but divested of the need to sell? Or is content, just this week’s word for advertising?

And once you’ve noshed your way through that particular bullshit baguette, who, anyway, says that we’re living in “the age of content”?

Is it just possible that this an idea propagated by those who want to make a fast buck out of manufacturing  ‘content’, or possibly those who’d rather be making ‘content’ than advertising?

Has anyone asked consumers if they want ‘content’ from brands? Brands have trouble holding people’s attention with a meaningful or entertaining message for 30 seconds (TV advertising, remember that?), so the idea that people are waiting with bated breath for the next outpouring of ‘branded content’ is, to put it mildly, wishful.

And even if we are in an ‘age of content’ what competent advertising professional needs to be told to ‘behave like an entertainer’? Does that mean ‘Be entertaining’? Didn’t we establish that some time ago? If ideas were technology, this would be like turning up at Google I/O with a crazy new device called a photo-copier.

We’ve got nothing against Mr. Pereira, by the way.

Who can blame him? The constraints of Twitter require pithy, affirming platitudes. In the torrent of ordure that’s been contaminating our social media streams for the last week, this just happened to be one turd too many.

Because ironically enough Mr. Pereira, wittingly or not, has been employed to manufacture ‘branded content’ on behalf of the Cannes Lions Festival.

This, we’d hazard a guess, is what ‘content’ really means: it’s low cost, low on meaning, low on actual thought, designed to be thrown into the sucking hole of social media, and never seen again. If you thought advertising was fatuous, then content is way worse.

And let’s just plunge, for a moment, through the layercake of bullshit that is the Cannes Lions Festival. Now, it might be an award scheme (fine if that’s what you’re into, they’re a chance to praise work for something other than ROI), but it’s still mainly a piss-up. Latterly it’s chosen to style itself online as something closer the TED talks, a self-serving manoeuvre for the benefit of its own brand.

But Cannes is not, crucially, a trade show or a scientific conference. More’s the pity. After all, what real innovation or insight has ever been announced or shared at Cannes? The talks are mere window dressing – they give the veneer of professionalism to what might otherwise just be a massive, tax-deductible party. That’s fine too, but let’s call it what it is.

The really stupid thing is that if anyone is likely to know the difference between the reality of Cannes and its branded pomposity, it’s the same people, advertising people on Twitter and elsewhere, to whom that pomposity is being peddled.

Secondly and slightly more seriously, treating this stuff, this ‘content’, as though it’s actual information (sharing it, tweeting it, or whatever) rather than acknowledging that it’s platitudinous, lowest-common-denominator bullshit, designed to merely populate a twitterfeed, second-hand confetti scattered over the whole grandiose parade, actually undermines the fact that there are real things that you can learn about advertising.

Just because advertising is disposable, doesn’t mean that the principles of good advertising are too. The danger is that these important ideas, some of which are, yes, old, are lost under the proliferation of this week’s bullshit.

Cannes is over, leaving nothing behind but a powerful smell of ‘content’. Now can we have Twitter back please?

Written by @notvoodoo & @WeAreSellSell