Content Is Advertising, Advertising Is Content: Media Company Buys Ad Firm That Makes Good Content

from the that's-how-it-works dept

There's an interesting Technology Review article about a new YouTube video campaign called ThinkR, which is trying to create videos of smart people talking about interesting things (think sort of TED-like, but a little flashier. and at least of the ones I've seen, with less substance). However, the Tech Review article highlights the oddity of an ad firm owned by a media firm making interesting content:

Here's how Radical Media describes its "entertainment" division:

AS THE LINE BETWEEN advertising and entertainment blurs, our Entertainment division is a solution to a changing media landscape. In conjunction with our Design + Digital Group and Integrated Marketing team, we work closely with our agency, network, and brand partners to integrate their visions into the DNA of the content we create.

In addition to films and music videos, Radical Media also makes television commercials and, well, "transmedia."

Here's where it gets really confusing: While Radical Media is essentially an advertising firm, it was purchased in 2010 by the RTL Group, which owns 46 television channels and 9 radio stations and is Europe's largest mass media company. In other words, a media company owns an advertising firm that moonlights as a media company. Huzzah!

It goes on to note that some of their videos... have advertisements before them, and it's possible that "Radical Media produced both the "advertisement" and the "content"!" Of course, I'm not so sure why or if that's all that surprising. As we've been pointing out for years, it's not just that advertising is content, but that content is advertising as well. Good content always advertises something. Bad content doesn't advertise anything, even if it's designed as an "advertisement."

Having an "ad agency" that knows how to make good content, first and foremost, is a lot more important than having a firm that knows how to make a "good advertisement." If you can make good content, you can figure out how it advertises something and act accordingly. If you're just focused on making a good advertisement, you'll often make bad content. So I actually think it's a good thing that ad companies and media companies are focusing on content first. I recognize the risk that many people worry about: that this makes "content" into something that's more "advertorial," but that's not what we're discussing here. It's the exact opposite. Purely "advertorial" content isn't good content. It's deceptive and annoying. When the mix of content and advertising works, it's because people want the content and actively seek it out (think Old Spice Man) rather than "hiding" an ad in the content -- which is more likely to turn people off.

Somehow, these two ideas too often get conflated. But if everyone's focused on creating good content first and foremost, that seems like a good thing -- even if that content comes from "an advertising" firm.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2012 @ 10:58pm

    Well that would solve the problem of pirated content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    LibreMan, 19 Jul 2012 @ 11:53pm

    Well, I very much disagree with the assessment that it's not that bad to have content and advertisement intertwined and molded together. It's even more deceptive than the direct ads because you can not separate the two - content BECOMES advertisement.

    As the techniques progress people do not even realize they're being targeted. This is VERY bad in my opinion.

    I do not like the concept of advertisement in general. Why do we have to go in a roundabout way of paying for content by paying for products and then having those sellers pay for our content by ads? Why can't we pay for quality content directly? Why do we keep paying for our own brainwashing?

    I think it is symptomatic of immaturity and lack of responsibility of the society if we need to do this.

    You may say that some adverts are useful because they offer you relevant information or something you probably want anyway but that's not the case because if it is useful to you it's a service NOT advertisement. Advertisement masquerading as a service is not a service. If it's primary purpose is not to help you find what you want without bias towards most paying sellers, it's no good.

    Why wouldn't I pay for a service that helps me find what I want? It's again symptomatic of the lack of responsibility if we need to do it in the way of advertisements ... this is not a good situation, and having adverts as content is even worse - we're moving in the wrong direction. We should be moving away for adverts and towards responsibly paying for what we like and want in a direct way without middleman that distorts what we get.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    justok (profile), 20 Jul 2012 @ 12:01am

    To be or not to be, that is a question that will be answered after this commercial break.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2012 @ 1:01am

    If all advertising became entertainment, we would be back in the same problem as always: attention span. Humans can only do so much, they can only see so much, they can only re-tweet and repost so much.

    Right now the "special" ads get a special place because, well, they are special. But if all ads were equally special, would they not just fade into the background again, unable to reach a truly viral level?

    Also, what about the tuneout factor? If all of the ads are "special" will there be a point where people will stop paying attention, looking for the next big thing? Ask the guys who run MySpace what happens when you are suddenly everywhere... the next stop is apparently nowhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2012 @ 3:10am


    "I hate advertisements because derpy herp derp derp"

    Companies have every right to try and convince you their product is something you want, and YOU have the responsability to see if that's really the case. No brainwashing involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Niall (profile), 20 Jul 2012 @ 4:31am


    First of all, because it saves a lot of people who can't afford to buy content from having to spend silly money. Look how many people can't afford DVD box sets.

    Secondly, because advertising does actually serve a purpose for most people. No matter how many useless or annoying ads you see, some ads will be interesting, relevant or entertaining - or hopefully all three! The trick is to improve the ratio of good:bad. I know that there are many things I have found out about, bought or become interested in from ads, and so I know that they can have a value. Obviously that value declines when they are intrusive/annoying(auto-video clips anyone?) but you can't write them all off as they are a workable model.

    On the flip side of this, ads as entertainment has a long tradition. Look at the effort going into Superbowl ads, or some of the really funny ones from the past. We get ads that become a mini-series, such as the Gold Blend ads with Anthony Stewart Head (pre-Buffy) in the UK, or our current Meerkat ads that have been so popular that they have spawned their own product line.

    There is also the creativity that the entertainment element provides. For all that I hate smoking, cigarette companies have had fantastic ads. In the old days, Hamlet had some really good ads, and later when they couldn't depict cigarettes, Silk Cut did some really good plays on their name - simple but powerful.

    Ads are a genre like any other, and they can serve as entertainment. If it is done carefully and tactfully, I don't see any reason why it can't be done the other way, using entertainment to advertise products or services. ("Ooo, Chloe in Smallville is using an Alienware, looks tasty I want one!" for example.)

    If nothing else, a clever advertiser (with a good brand) could even promote their product/service without mentioning it. For example, mentioning on screen that X character can do/buy Y might lead people to for Y and discover brand Z.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Niall (profile), 20 Jul 2012 @ 4:37am


    MySpace's problem wasn't that it was everywhere, it was that it failed to have enough for enough people, and that it failed to keep and maintain enough perceived value amongst the public. I know, as someone in my late 30s when it was big, and not that bothered about music, that it really had nothing to interest me, whereas Facebook had more people, more simplicity, and a less throwback-to-early-webpages look/feel. And the less said about Bebo the better...

    Even if these things are ubiquitous, some will stand out due to word of mouth, better (cross-)promotion, or just sheer better quality. It's the same as any other 'entertainment/educational' thing vying for our limited attention and dollars. There are millions of blogs out there and I can only read a fraction of them, so to keep my attention they have to provide me with something - even if it is just amusement value for the trolling/stupidity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2012 @ 5:16am

    Content Is Advertising; Advertising Is Content
    Content Is Propaganda; Propaganda Is Content.

    Is that not what we already have?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Mike42 (profile), 20 Jul 2012 @ 8:25am


    I think the problem is that your make-believe world where everyone pays for content sharply contrasts with the content industries make-believe world where everyone is a pirate. This is a good compromise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 20 Jul 2012 @ 10:51am


    I do not like the concept of advertisement in general.

    I despise modern marketing & advertising, and it's only been getting worse over the years. I go to great pains to avoid it. That said, I have no problem with the concept of advertising.

    If ads did what they should do (tell me that a product exists and give me the facts about the product), I would have no problem with them at all. But they don't.

    What I hear you objecting to is not the concept of advertising, but the way advertising is done today. I agree with your characterization of it as "brainwashing". Advertising today is not about informing me of products, it's about making me feel a certain way about products. And they do this by intentionally trying to bypass my brain, by giving me few actual facts (and what facts are given are lies or highly misleading).

    In short, it's propaganda.

    So I find myself agreeing with Mike in that there's nothing wrong with good advertising and at the same time agreeing with you (and disagreeing with Mike) that his idea of good advertising is precisely the type of advertising that I consider harmful.

    And the trolls around here say that we don't do nuance!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 20 Jul 2012 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re:

    If nothing else, a clever advertiser (with a good brand) could even promote their product/service without mentioning it.

    To me, this is the epitome of objectionable advertising. If an ad isn't giving me useful information about the product, it's not an ad, it's propaganda. If an ad doesn't mention the product at all, then it can't be giving me any useful information about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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