The Year Ahead For...Content

Dean Baker reckons even if most brands don't aim to be media owners, content is still key to building their reputation and boosting sales.

Dean Baker: ‘Brands this year need to elevate the importance of content: connect it to everything else, surround it with other marketing activity and ensure that it’s properly amplified’
Dean Baker: ‘Brands this year need to elevate the importance of content: connect it to everything else, surround it with other marketing activity and ensure that it’s properly amplified’

It’s a hugely exciting, much-debated world in content and much of what the industry has dealt with in the past 12 months has provided solid learnings for the year ahead. As a result, it’s a burgeoning area for ambitious brands.

When we formed JWT Entertainment, we tried to reduce content to a really simple thought: how can marketers use content as opposed to advertising to build their brands’ relationships with their consumers? It’s a reversal, for sure, as it puts consumers at the centre rather than the brands, and it leads to engaging audiences rather than disrupting consumers who were engaged with something else.

Content is the new method of telling a story. Storytelling is something we’ve always done as agencies, but rich, creative content now allows us to bring these stories to life. And we are not just talking about film here. When we define content, its purpose is to build a relationship with a brand, to engage, entertain and excite. So, with this in mind, let’s look forward to the next 12 months…


Content isn’t a box to check. It isn’t a one-off tactic – it must be used for the long-term strategy. Also, we must not lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of brands aren’t broadcasters or media owners such as NBC, YouTube and Netflix. Most don’t care about creating Boardwalk Empire or Homeland. They want to build their brand, change perception, increase sales – whatever their business needs, it probably isn’t an Emmy, a Bafta or a Booker.

Marketers don’t wake up and think "Today I am going to create a hit TV series, web series, game" etc. What keeps them awake at night is market position. So anything they can do to cut through to their consumers in a meaningful, accountable way, they will include in their marketing mix.

Agencies and marketers need to understand the role that content has to play in the overarching strategy. This is crucial if content is to reach its full potential.


Let’s try to give a little context to where we find ourselves today. The birth of the YouTube generation, the phenomenon of Facebook, the global dominance of Apple driving new platforms for engagement. Add to the mix five broadcast networks, hundreds of cable and satellite networks and, perhaps even more significantly, Netflix, iTunes, video on demand and so on… In 2013, more distribution platforms will be added to the list and, in five years’ time, the landscape is likely to be unrecognisable. So agencies and brands need to move fast to keep up.

Brands need to set goals and design content that works against a trans-media model that is relevant to their consumers. It’s of fundamental importance to a brand that its content is available to consume across multiple touchpoints on different platforms. But it’s more than this – building the campaign in a transmedia way allows filmed content, music, written word and social media to all work together to amplify reach and engage consumers, wherever they happen to be. The sum of the parts truly becomes so much more significant than each individual component. In 2013, brands must look to transmedia models that begin to build communities and forge meaningful relationships with their consumers.


Previous years have witnessed a content turf war. This needs to end during 2013, and let’s all be hopeful that it does. We do things better when all agencies collaborate and have a properly integrated approach to content creation. This is how I look at it: in the end, it’s all about creative ideas and great content. Working with ideas, writers, directors – that’s our business, it’s what we do. We make stuff. We create content with exciting, engaging ideas that build our clients’ brands. In a few years’ time, the world will look different again, there will be even more devices, even more platforms – but it’s irrelevant. To use a much overused phrase: content is king. And how or where you engage with it, on whichever platform or device, is immaterial.

However, it doesn’t matter how great the content is or how relevant it is to the brand if it doesn’t find an audience – it is a meaningless waste of marketing bucks. The role media agencies play in making content a success is significant. To misquote Field Of Dreams: "If you build it, they won’t come" – because they simply don’t know about it unless the media agencies have played their role in the collaboration. They also need to have defined a strategy to activate the content and distribute it, whatever the content might be.


Brands that are brave and pioneering, which try to understand – even shape – the emerging content models, will play a vital role in developing new ways to engage audiences. Brands that don’t explore the space or dismiss it as irrelevant to their business risk losing relevance with their consumers. They will fall behind – or, for some, fall further behind – if they continue to think like this.

Brands this year need to elevate the importance of content: connect it to everything else, surround it with other marketing activity and ensure that it’s properly amplified. Only then will it achieve its full potential.

This opens up the opportunity to develop content that directly engages a brand’s audience. To have a vital role in the development of content, as opposed to sticking their ad disruptively in the middle of it or sticking a logo on a finished product. This year will be about bringing more brands to the writer’s room and moving the needle in this hugely exciting new world of content creation.

Branded content and entertainment has truly become key to brand communication that creatively engages its consumers. The convergence of marketing and entertainment feels like it is just coming of age. Roll on 2013.

Dean Baker is the head of JWT Entertainment at JWT London