People don't read ads. They read what interest them

August 2017

by the BCMA and Luke Southern

The BCMA is in a privileged position to have access to the leading experts and pioneers of the branded content industry. This interview is a part of ‘For The Love of Branded Content’ series which brings together ‘thought-leaders’ from across the globe to share their ‘love’ and advice on what it takes to succeed in the ever-evolving world of branded content.

Luke Southern, Managing Director at Drum, says people don't read ads but they read what interest them. 

Learn more in his short interview below.

1. Why do you love branded content?

Once upon a time branded content was seen as the answer to the interruptive nature of advertising. The great new communications hope. Fast forward to 2017 and the irony that much of the branded content out there is just as anodyne and invasive as the ‘bad' advertising it was meant to replace hasn’t been lost on me.

When it's good, branded content is indistinguishable from great entertainment. When it's bad it's just more clutter in a world that doesn't need more branded stuff. The 1950’s Mad Men era advertising luminary Howard Luck Gossage said: "People don’t read ads. They read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.” This couldn’t be more relevant today as it was nearly 70 years ago to makers of advertising and branded content alike. I think this has often been forgotten in the great ‘branded content’ gold rush of recent years. The overriding principle should always be that whatever you make, make it matter to the audience. Don’t tell them what is interesting, make something they will be interested in. Great branded content, branded content that I can love, should always be grounded in the consumers world of interest or provoke interesting reasons for consumers to spend time with it – emotionally engaging, highly sharable and rooted in what people really care about.

2. What do you love the most about branded content?

When great branded content fuses the brands ambitions, with entertainment and popular culture – not only growing brands but contributing something to the culture of our times. At DRUM we talk about this as creating "cultural signals" for brands. It shapes how we work and means that everything we do is born out of the pursuit of understanding, creating and making popular culture for brands. That’s because people care about popular culture. Tv, music, films, comedy, sport. films about sport and music. This is the stuff that we all love, that we remember, that we talk about,that we are interested in, share and that we tune in for, not stick the kettle on for. A couple of years ago we made the Lego ad break. We reconstructed an entire ad break out of lego, remaking popular ads of the time in mould formed plastic. Piece by piece. It was an effective piece of communication driving opening weekend box office takings beyond expections but it was also a great piece of entertainment in its own right. It was a one off media stunt that has been watched millions of times since as a piece of entertainment beyond its original broadcast medium or intended purpose. Consumed by consumers for what it was. Great entertainment. We've just done it again for the Lego Batman Movie. This time with Channel 4, taking over their continuity announcements with a bold, relevant and disruptive approach that was fully integrated into pop-culture and made Batman as relevant to film lovers in their 30s and 40s as it is to kids.

3. One piece of advice you’d love to give someone undertaking branded content?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Figure out what role you want branded content to play in your business and your communications portfolio and how what you make can contribute to the cultural narrative. Honestly, sometimes its just not right or relevant for a brand. If you don’t spend time working this through then what you make will just become part of the aforementioned clutter.

4. What is the best example of branded content you love?

I’m going old school but lets talk about the Michellin Guide. A brilliant piece of branded content before ‘branded content’ was a thing. Created to take advantage of the nascent era of motorcars when people started to drive for pleasure – encouraging more people to go out for drives (and hence buy more tyres from them) by showing off and talking about great places to eat along the journey. It single handedly helped grow the Michelin brand as a tyre manufacturer and embedded Michelin in the cultural conciousness of consumers beyond the transactional world of buying tyres making it synonomous with great food and great adventures.