When I was six my brother and I used to dance around the living room listening to Elvis records. We called it The Elvis Club. I liked the music, but just as fascinating was his huge wooden cabinet that housed both the speaker and the record player itself. In my mind, then and now, it was the height of engineering and experience.
Fast-forward to 2019 and I’m still dancing around the living room to records, and in my spare time I run a labour-of-love vinyl label. It’s a hobby, not a business, but the experience around it is the purpose. We press just 300 copies of each record on 180g heavyweight vinyl. Each sleeve is screen-printed by hand on Japanese paper, and then slipped into a plastic outer case. It’s incredibly time-consuming to produce it so we only do one or two releases a year. It’s expensive, too – and definitely geeky.
Discerning about creative and purpose
We go the extra mile because it’s what the customers respond to. The vinyl-collector world is fickle and filled with people who take it all incredibly seriously. As a result of this, we have to be very careful about the music we choose and package it in a way that means someone is going to pay £10 for a format that has just four songs on it (we don’t crowd the vinyl as we want optimal sound quality – more room on the record allows for better sound).
That’s the same price for four songs as it is for a monthly subscription for all the songs in the world. People’s record collections are highly curated because of this, especially as the reseller vinyl market drives prices up even further to hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds for the most sought-after records. While formats change, we still need to be discerning about creative and purpose.
Although there are infinite ways and opportunities to explore our passions and interests, how they are curated is significant. I have been building a Spotify playlist for five years that has just 120 songs on it. Even with the abundance of choice I go back to this list almost daily as it is reliable, well-considered and personal.
No reader of Campaign needs telling there is just too much content online. But with advertising being the core business that powers the Internet, we all have a responsibility to ensure that what we add is valuable. The quality of a campaign, the depth of it, the formats, experience and environments, matter more than ever.
Quality, credibility and curation
It’s perhaps got too easy to publish, you could say. Every single one of us is a publisher on the Internet through social. In fact, five-year-old kids, as well as adults that act like five-year-old kids, can publish and broadcast to the world. I believe the majority of this is a good thing, but when anyone is a publisher there arises a problem of quality, credibility and curation.
Likewise, when every campaign commonly has content (beyond an ad of some sort) created for it, treating that material preciously, as precious as producing a vinyl record, would be a good thing. Similar to producing music, balance is integral to content that matters, that people genuinely care about and that gives them an experience. To be able to deliver compelling media – whether it is branded, ads, or editorial – requires brilliant creativity coupled with the data and understanding to give audiences something that is pertinent, exciting and engaging, when, where and how they want to consume it. In a loud, busy, digital world, tuning in and listening to what the audience wants is key.
We know, for example, from a bespoke study we conducted earlier this year, that our audience most values journalists who display ‘depth of knowledge and passion’ and found that over two-thirds come to CNN for content that is relevant to them, and for news that is important to them personally. Again, we return to curation. It’s about moving from a marketing mentality of ‘always on’ to ‘meaningful moments’.
When working with brands that’s our goal at CNN – the quality is a given, the editorial content is highly curated by some of the world’s great journalists and editors and it’s formatted to fi t the context and environment in which it is delivered. Like my old Elvis Club, it all comes back to providing quality for the audience and giving them a personal experience, be it in their living room, on the train, or wherever they choose.