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At SXSW, Content’s Not Dead

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INFLUENCER: There’s never been a better time to be a storyteller, writes J. Walter Thompson Atlanta's Sydney Busby

At SXSW, Content’s Not Dead

If you’re someone like me who dedicates their career to content marketing, you likely agree the landscape feels bleak. Facebook’s algorithm shifts continue to slash reach, it costs more to get your content into feeds and brands are tightening their purse strings.  

So, imagine my disappointment when panellists at SXSW kicked around the same hackneyed buzz words and platitudes I’ve heard since I started my career. You know the ones: “Know your audience,” “Authenticity is key,” “Emotional storytelling.” How can we save our craft if so-called experts are still talking about the same basic principles we’ve practiced for years? How do we adapt?

But then something changed. 

In a session called Navigating the Video Revolution in the Digital Age, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained how YouTube is optimising toward quality content after a test showed it left users feeling more satisfied. YouTube found satisfaction increased when users viewed content with a higher quality score over what it considers click-bait. A combination of factors, including view-through rate and up-voted comments, determine what YouTube considers quality. The click-bait may have been more enticing at first, but it left users feeling unsatisfied. It’s not a revolutionary concept, but it is good business and YouTube hopes it will keep users coming back.

We know Instagram does something similar, optimising toward positive comments on posts. Facebook too. The latest algorithm updates may have diminished some brands’ already limited reach, but by prioritising “meaningful interactions,” Facebook ensures its users have a quality experience. 

All this got me thinking. The way I see it, there’s never been a better time to be a storyteller, IF you’re committed and passionate about making good work. Even better, we know exactly what it takes to tell great stories: knowing your audience, authenticity and emotion. Here are few stories shared at SXSW that I think got it right: 


A/R Jordan: Activating the Power of Community

Dan Harbison, Global Digital SR Director at Jordan, and Ben Williams, Executive Creative Director R/GA, wanted to do something big to commemorate Michael Jordan’s legendary 1988 free-throw dunk. So for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, they created a Snapchat lens that let fans engage with the Jumpman free-throw, or as the brand so eloquently coined it, “The moment we knew man can fly.”  

They also set out to recreate the feeling of community that comes from waiting in line with fellow sneakerheads to buy the latest limited run; a sense of camaraderie that’s lacking when you order online. Collectors at the event could scan a Snapcode and order the Jordan III Free Throw Line weeks before they were available to the public. By the time they got home from the game, the shoes were on their doorstep. Jordan created the first branded ecommerce experience on Snapchat. 

Jordan got it right by staying true to its core story and audience; the brand knows its community and provided an experience that exceeded consumer needs and desires.  


What’s Next After Advertising

Otto Bell, founder of Turner’s brand studio Courageous, brought some examples of his team’s work to reiterate what makes great content. In 2017, their client MassMutual launched a campaign celebrating unsung heroes. On New Year’s Eve, they brought these men and women to New York to thank them and inspire the nation to “live mutual” in 2018. 

Courageous and MassMutual produced a live performance of “I’ll Stand By You” sung by the National Children’s Chorus and broadcast it on CNN to close out what was for many a dark year. The themes of these heroes’ stories are universal and the execution is genuine. By positioning the broadcast as an act of gratitude and calling for the nation to work together for a better world in 2018, MassMutual avoided seeming self-serving and Courageous created an inspiring piece of content. Watch it below. I dare you not to cry. 




Sydney Busby is Content Supervisor at J. Walter Thompson Atlanta

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Wunderman Thompson Atlanta, Mon, 19 Mar 2018 14:26:42 GMT