Publicity is on its way to becoming invisible. No, I am not saying that it will not exist. I am saying that it will exist but only as an invisible force operating in the background of our lives.
Significant time has passed since brands began to launch campaigns over social media, networks, and platforms. At first, propelled by the inertia of conventional strategies, brands continued with their self-focused marketing campaigns. Little by little, the brightest of the bunch realized that the paradigm had changed: the audience was the focus of online platforms, and marketers were merely second-tier members of the virtual hierarchy.
This realization initiated the conversation about branded content and the identification of the new most important marketing objective (second only to sales)—connecting with the audience through producing content that formed part of the conversation; that connected with it; that did not interrupt it; and that enriched it.
While it is true that brands are shifting their focus towards content, this has only begun recently. Far from emphasizing the line between publicity and content, I am more inclined to blur it. In other words, rather than saying, ‘I want the biggest logo,’ I instead ask, ‘What if we do not include a logo at all?’
I am not the only one asking this question—Netflix and Amazon are also blurring the line by transitioning from offering on-demand video services to producing their own TV series and movies, some of which have gone on to be nominated for Emmys. Big brands are beginning to ask this question too, evidenced by the creation of new online platforms (without branding!), like Fab Beauty by L’Oreal or Nowness by Louis Vuitton—the latter being an ode to good taste.
Rodrigo Figueroa, CEO and founder of What´s On Fire, an agency that creates real time content, has been supporting the shift toward branded content for a long time. His mission statement captures the movement well: “We connect brands and audiences while everything else happens”. If you have 15 minutes to spare, I recommend watching this presentation of Figueroa´s, which is tremendously inspirational and informative to those who dedicate themselves to the creation of marketing content.
The reality is that online platforms allow audiences to be in perpetual communication with brands, and furthering the challenge, they demand narratives that are interesting and entertaining. Because of this, when people ask me what the Content Department of a marketing agency does, I like to say that we give brands things to talk about when they don’t have anything to talk about.