The Harlem Shake Or Dental Floss?


Thoughts on good content.

Content? Yup. It seems we’re all pretty much agreed on that now. While a few years ago we were one of only a few voices predicting the future of brands as broadcasters, now it’s taken as given. But the question that no-one seems to be answering is how on earth do you make it good?

When I recently came across an article about the great creative director John Webster (by Sarah Carter of Adam&EveDDB), there were many simple truths that rang true, but there was one that leapt out; “be interesting, because brands aren’t”.

The point, of course, is that people really don’t care about brands, or having conversations with brands or watching stuff about brands. They have far more entertaining and important things going on in their lives.

John was working in the era before digital, social and the internet, but this principle of great advertising seems to me even more relevant than ever, particularly for content. Its home is generally online, which means the competition is absolutely vast. What are you going to choose; a new thriller from Channel 4, the Harlem Shake or a short film about the merits of dental floss? The days when you could buy an audience are gone. You have got to give them something they may actually want to watch.

So what are the best ways of doing this? The possibilities are endless, and you’ll be hearing much more on the subject in future blogs and papers, but here are three different approaches that have caught my eye in the last six months;

  • Blow’em away. We all saw it and I’m not the first to say it, but Red Bull throwing Felix Baumgartner out of a balloon and seeing if he could go supersonic was a stroke of genius. It has everything – big headlines, massive jeopardy and spectacular visuals.
  • Re-ignite the spark. Air New Zealand’s Blind Gate, from Joint London, is a personal favourite of mine. Reviving an old format can be tricky (bit like going back to an ex), but done well – and this one is; Claudia Winkleman presents, it’s shot at Heathrow, and there’s a small baggage twist on the format – it’s a great way of engaging people.
  • Borrow what they love. DFS’s “Sci-fi romcom love thriller” with Alison Hammond is a good example (this is ours, so please excuse the self-promotion). Not everyone likes talking about sofas, but they do love talking about TV and the people on it. So in securing a one-year product placement deal for the sofas on ITV’s "This Morning" DFS did something pretty smart; they bought the right to borrow that love. And borrow it we did.

There’s no formula for great content, but my feeling is that if you go into it remembering John’s words, you’ve got a chance of doing something people might just watch.

Jim de Zoete, Creative Director.