Breaking down the barriers to successful storytelling
A view from Dean Matthewson

Breaking down the barriers to successful storytelling

Brands must place more emphasis on who exactly they're targeting and how these audiences want to digest content, writes Trinity Mirror Solutions' Dean Matthewson.

I read with interest Campaign’s news story on MediaCom's partnership with Facebook to minimise the rejection of branded content by key audiences on social networks.

Being particularly crafty, you could say this feels a bit like an olive branch from Facebook back to the industry after its video measurement blooper. "Sorry adland, we messed up on that one but we're here to save the day."

But at face value the partnership – which aims to optimise content for people's news feeds and improve engagement with video – makes perfect sense. As video, and in particular mobile video, becomes a larger part of consumers' social networking experience, it should help a very strong agency in MediaCom to better maximise exposure for its clients’ content.

So far, so technologically and creatively impressive. But aren't we forgetting the humans a little bit in all of this?

Trinity Mirror Solutions’ own research into how our "Modal Britain" audience shares content with friends and family gives us a great insight into people's decision making when bombarded with a plethora of stories in their newsfeeds. It goes without saying that they prioritise the content they consume. 

Making more effective, better-optimised video may be well and good if you're a brand like Nike, Sky or Netflix, with a story that people can't help but be interested in. But what about those that lack the story needed to make video a success?

And the chief criteria for prioritisation is where the content has come from.

On social we already skip over updates from people we're not too bothered about hearing from (without going quite so far as to block their updates or, worse still, unfriend them). We instead prioritise the updates from those people we're closest to and care about the most.

And it’s the same for content produced by brands. Making more effective, better-optimised video may be well and good if you're a brand like Nike, Sky or Netflix, with a story that people can't help but be interested in. But what about those that lack the story needed to make video a success?

What about those poor laundry detergents whose brand managers are convinced video content on social media is the way forward but can't actually deliver the numbers? They're the friend whose updates we skip over.

Even McDonald's closed down their YouTube channel because people weren't that interested in watching.

The biggest barrier these "less interesting" brands are facing is that people will engage more with messaging from those they trust and perceive as more interesting than others. But generating that trust and perception ain’t easy.

Rather than allocating whole budgets to digital solutions such as Facebook video, brands need to place more emphasis on who exactly they‘re targeting with each message, and how these audiences want to digest content.

I don’t think for a second MediaCom is ditching years of hard work and an intricate understanding of the media landscape, and on the face of it the partnership with Facebook is a wise one to help futureproof clients’ ad spend.

But, while Facebook is undeniably a fantastic platform for reaching a wide audience, it’s important for brands to avoid treating it or any other digital platform as a quick win.

The focus needs to be on how each advertising channel can appeal to different audiences – from print to TV to outdoor to cinema and mobile video. I won’t bang on about Newsworks’ recent print effectiveness study, but what’s becoming clearer is that every channel has its place in the media mix.

Trusted news brands or publishers like Trinity Mirror can make a huge difference in helping create a super-charged brand story that appeals to the right audiences. With a balanced media plan in place, it then won’t matter if you’re a disruptive multinational entertainment company or a laundry detergent.

Dean Matthewson is senior planner in Invention at Trinity Mirror Solutions.