The Content Paradox

In Hod We Trust vs The geek shall inherit the earth

Earlier this week, I saw a profile of England footballer Glenn Hoddle. That evening, I went to a Techmap session on programmatic advertising. Logically, these two things have nothing in common, but I found myself thinking about them in similar ways.

Glenn Hoddle was the most gifted footballer of his generation but, in an era of heavy pitches, muddy balls and crude tackles, his gifts were often overlooked in favour of more robust and ungainly professionals. Asked if he felt bitter about the fact that he didn’t achieve more, Hoddle said no – thirty years later, people still come up to him and ask him about a particular goal he scored and that meant more than trophies. The ability to inspire was worth more that medals.

So, what has this got to do with programmatic advertising? Well, as a content creator, I listened to endless talk of ‘inventory’ – the ads displayed based on the insights the demand and supply-side platforms are able provide. The conversation didn’t turn to content – the creative execution that will determine whether any of this ‘inventory’ is actually consumed – until the end of the session. And it seemed to me that the ability of creatives to inspire audiences – in the same way that Glenn Hoddle used to inspire football fans – has become mundane, it’s value lost in the deluge of statistics that accompany any online activity.

The Content Paradox

This speaks to a larger gripe – the content paradox: at a time when content is more important than ever before, it seems to have become commoditised in the eyes of many who commission this work. At the techmap session, the argument was made that creatives need to better understand how their content lives online, that users can chose to discontinue watching an ad after 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 3, 1 seconds. But nine seconds is still a long time to hold someone’s attention – particularly if you have hi-jacked their screen as they attempt to watch something else.

There needs to be a new dialogue between those that monetize content and those that create it: creatives need to find a better balance between artistic and commercial imperatives – and the transparency of online activity will ensure that they do. But equally, executives need to understand that if content and the creatives that make it are kings, then they can’t continue to be paid like paupers. I am assured that this topic will be covered in the next Techmap session – Overcoming Content Shock – and I look forward to that discussion. I might even bring Glenn Hoddle along.

Author: Iain Halpin