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The road ahead for advertising and news

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The Economist Group recently acquired TVC, a content-driven communications agency that helps brands connect with consumers through coverage in the online and broadcast news media.

Our rationale for making this move comes out of our thinking about the way in which brand opinions are formed today and the role news plays.

There was a time when brand advertisers held the whip hand. Media choice was limited and, given sufficient money, brand ideas could be pushed out through advertising that consumers could not avoid.

Now choice has mushroomed as technology has delivered an ever-increasing number of media outlets. The impact of advertising has been diluted and power has shifted to consumers. They can choose what they view and they can filter out the bits that don’t interest them – including brand messages.

What’s more, any message on a brand that an advertiser might put out can be instantly checked against the thousands of opinions that exist online. So brand messages don’t exist in isolation. There is a climate of opinion that surrounds brands and brand owners have to focus on more than just the messages they control through advertising.

Not surprisingly, brand owners are thinking about how to present themselves in ways beyond traditional advertising methods. One of those is creating content on the things they are involved with that are newsworthy and offering that to news outlets. That might be a sporting event they support or a new product they are launching. TVC determines a strategy, creates the content and makes the offer to interested media.

Part of the explosion in media choice has been to meet our growing thirst for news and information. That thirst supports rolling news channels and online services that are updated by the minute. It also drives the adoption of devices that allow us to stay in touch while we are on the move and, when we need to, reflect on what is happening.

So Lean Back 2.0 is in many ways a reflection of our increasing need to be well-informed both broadly and deeply. This drives desire for more news, more outlets to provide it, and more devices to consume it on. The thirst for news, the proliferation of channels and the consequent dilution of advertising impact means that brand owners have to think about how they enter the news agenda if they want to stay in touch with information-hungry, empowered consumers.