Before social media, if you wanted people to see an ad, you had to place it in inside of popular entertainment: a TV or radio show, a digital or print publication. These were the mediums that owned the attention and advertisers needed to rent it. Today, any brand can reach the exact same audiences directly, from its own channels, on the mobile platforms where people invest their attention 24/7. Now, ads compete with entertainment for attention, and vice versa, and the best content wins. As a result,
The purpose of an ad is to get you to buy something. Yes, many ads set out to inspire, entertain, or educate — to add value. These are the best ads from the best marketers. Still, they are a means to an end: we want you to buy our products.
Media is no different. Its goal is to inspire, entertain, and educate. The better a media company does this, the more attention it gets. This is also a means to end: we want you to buy our products, be it ads or subscriptions.
Every great HBO or Netflix original series is a reminder that the monthly subscription fee is worthwhile. It’s not TV, it’s marketing. And it’s also TV. And it’s marketing.
Red Bull is a publisher. Buzzfeed is a marketing agency.
LG Mobile (a client of ours) produces hundreds of pieces of content monthly (like this and this and this), all shot on its smart phones, and it’s viewed by tens of millions of people. LG is the only smartphone manufacturer that gained U.S. market share in 2015.
Look at Buzzfeed: most of the content it creates is not directly monetized; there are no banner, interstitial or pre-roll ads around it. Instead, Buzzfeed uses its content to prove to its clientele — media buying agencies and brands — that it excels at making content and placing it in front of many people on the mobile (social) media platforms where people spend their time. In other words, to advertise its advertising service, Buzzfeed creates tons of content that people enjoy and share. Buzzfeed is advertising agency, with a very robust content marketing program. The content it makes for you… is the ad it makes for itself.
In the same vein, this model applies to every social media star, and the MCNs that manage them. Every tweet is an ad for its writer, every Instagram/Vine/Snap an ad for its shooter. All media published by an influencer, athlete or celebrity — is an ad for what the creator can do for your brand.
Really, all people are media entities. There are now trillions of photos and videos shared online each year. Alas, most smart phone manufacturers have launched “Shot on [smartphone name]” campaigns, with content shot by everyday users living across billboards and TV. In this case, the media quite literally became the ad.
Even traditional media is blending with advertising. Fox’s Empire — arguably the most popular programming in the world across both TV and social media — made arguably the most interesting branded content of the year in partnership with Pepsi. The production and airing of a Pepsi TV spot, starring a main character in Empire, was scripted into the plot of the show. (Full disclosure: we are working on this project with all of these parties.)
Finally, now more than ever, every big film is an ad for merchandise, amusement parks, licensing deals, or the studio itself, with Marvel being a great example of the benefits of consumer trust in a movie making brand.
All media is an advertisement to users and advertisers that a transaction is worthwhile.
The best marketers are media companies. The best media companies are marketers.
Advertising and media are the same thing.