Content and context go hand in hand
A view from Sue Unerman

Content and context go hand in hand

I was surprised to hear media agencies separating from creative shops being painted by someone as, well, "separatism". They bemoaned the split between content and context.

Well, I think content and context are flourishing nicely arm in arm on most client businesses.

It may be true that some creative types still like to start with a TV commercial (though surely not mostly), and then a rough 360-degree makeover is given to the ad with emphasis placed where it can amplify the TV ad best.

It may also be true that some media purists find it all too easy to cut the 120-second TV ad down to 40 seconds in order to drive "value" while ignoring the impact and fame that a TV event might drive.

I believe, most of the time, creatives will consider context. After all, there's no point in shouting loudly in an empty room. Media agencies that just buy cheap space tend not to thrive, and being driven by discounts is no-one's idea of effectiveness.

In my first book, Tell The Truth, we did in fact cluster our many case studies into two sections: content and context. While part one was mainly concerned with what you can say and what you should say about the brand, and part two was about how you tell the truth, the two sections were intertwined. The context you create for communication can and should enhance the effectiveness of the message. These days, the mandate for brands is to submit, suggest, forward, support and encourage conversation, less with themselves and more about them. Consumers today are more likely (and better empowered, thanks to the seismic changes in media behaviour due to the internet, social media and smartphones) to determine the brand truth for themselves than at any other time in history.

We must determine roles for content just as we have long determined roles for media. Designed with a media context in mind. So is the role to create desire, close the deal, encourage copying, fuel SEO? Content will range from rules-based programmatic content through to a collaboration with Caspar Lee or Zoella. From a digital poster prompting you to tune in to Ed Sheeran now playing on the radio in your car as you drive past to a TV spot simultaneously broadcast with an ad on your phone, it is only when and if content and context are hand in hand that you'll drive effective communication.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom