In American television, a show runner is the one holding all the strings together for a show. Balancing the needs of the studio, the writer/director(s), marketing, etc...etc. She has the larger picture in mind, understands content but also understands core things like logistics, marketing requirements, is a people manager and most importantly, she understands the nuances of the mediums in which the show will be spread along with the core thought process of the audience. (This is something Indian television desperately needs but that’s a separate discussion altogether). So let’s hold this thought and look at content in the advertising landscape today.
It’s an established fact that video is how we consume content now… And it’s not a surprise to anyone! Think about it, we moved from print being the predominant medium to TV, so honestly this was just obvious. All we needed was better bandwidth and the understanding that we had to be able to create a lot of video across the year to keep our audiences engaged as brand propagators.
The growth of OTT platforms, new age media houses/MCN’s (Multi Channel Networks) and individual content creators also gives brands tons of options to choose from to propagate the essence of the brand. And somewhere within this the poor old creative agency seems destined to fail. Just google “advertising agency future” and all you will hear is the need to transform amongst a prospect of apocalypse or rather adpocalypse.
But, as I look at this entire scenario I actually think the modern creative agency is at a pivotal point of this entire circus. And I’m not talking about the age old legacy firm, I’m talking about the agency that came to be in the last decade or so… Maybe even the last five to seven years.
Let me explain:
Content creators are many but those who truly understand brands in content for the digital age are few and far between; in most cases they honestly couldn’t care less...
A content creator has always traditionally focussed on making 'great content' if along the way he has to splash on some brand placement then so be it, but it’s like a T-shirt he’s been asked to make his baby wear, and he’s okay with it as long as it doesn’t mess with the baby.
A brand on the other hand wants to build the value it brings to its core audience and along with it propagate the core values it stands for as a brand. And because they are paying for it to a large extent, the least they expect is that this mixture of value and values is central to the content piece.
Now look at the traditional ad man; he’s used to the weapon of 30-seconds and he’s damn good at making it engaging yet brand centred. He’s also used to being the guy who calls all the shots. Which, worked in the age of TV but not in the time of multiple platforms and increasingly differentiated consumption patterns.
Now put these three together or any two of these together and you know you’re never gonna hit the perfect balance! They all have alterior motives at heart and somewhere in this battle either
A. The content is great but the brand is lost
B. The content dies under the weight of the brand
C. It’s neither engaging nor brand building but feels like a weird mishmash of an AD film that’s way too long.
So what’s truly missing is a balancing act! Now go back to how we defined a show runner and you’ll realise why the modern agency is so important.
It’s ability to balance the needs of the content creator, the client/brand and the traditional thought process comes from the fact that it’s made up of today’s consumers, the ones who live their life on social media, who consume their content on screens they can hold in their hand (and beyond) and those who jump into every new addition to the social media universe like it’s an opportunity rather than an additional hurdle.
These are also those who come up with newer ways of doing things, propagate the fact that brand building today isn’t as much about the facets of a brand but rather the story it wants to tell, the value it wants to constantly give and the place its core values have in building the world today.
Because that’s what advertising really is, isn’t it… “Helping brands build themselves into a core value chain part of the world we live in today.”
(The author is co-founder and content chief at The Glitch)