TV Spots Becoming Part of the Content Marketing Mix in Surprising Ways

Brandon Carter
Brandon Carter

Photo, watching a television set

To date, the role of TV in content marketing has been ambiguous. You could make the case TV had a hand in forcing digital media to step up its game from tacky banners to platforms that actually encourage a return to storytelling.  Once seemingly destined for direct-response only, digital has proved to be quite the branding medium. Content marketing is arguably the poster child of this renaissance that, at least in part, aspires both to TV’s quality and and its pull with the Fortune 500.

At the same time, TV has a history of muddying the waters when it comes to content and how it’s defined. From time to time, we’re reminded how engaging ads can be during the Super Bowl or noteworthy occasions like Jordan’s “RE2PECT” tribute to Derek Jeter before his retirement. With ads like these, we might even begin to wonder afresh:

Can a TV spot double as content?

While different marketers might give different answers, TV itself is introducing a new wrinkle to the debate with a different kind of ad.

The 30-second spot for content.

TV Ads for Content?

Two recent examples spring to mind.

I’ll start with Speed Stick’s “The Journey” spot, which I saw during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and the Rockets. Initially, I thought it was your average motivational endorsement from a star athlete (though the fact that it was draft prospect Frank Kaminsky of the Wisconsin Badgers should have been a dead-giveaway). As the story developed, it felt more in-line with a Dove Men+Care message about supportive fathers, dealing with adversity, etc. But by the end of it, there was a URL for a YouTube video.  What was going on here?

Colgate Palmolive was using TV air-time to try to get me to their YouTube channel and check out the rest of Frank’s story, plus the stories of other draft prospects! There might have been a stick of deodorant at the close (I honestly can’t remember), but the sell in this case was “use that second screen in front of you and check out more on YouTube.” Incredible!

Discoverability being one of the biggest barriers to branded content’s success, using a TV spot and getting blanket coverage to raise awareness of your content seems like a perfectly logical move, especially given the context: it aired late at night during a West Coast playoff basketball game. There’s no chance I’m going to the supermarket at 11PM to buy a Speed Stick, but there’s every chance I’m going to idly watch some YouTube videos at the end of the night. Why shouldn’t they be yours? I see you, Colgate Palmolive, I see you…

Similarly, Bank of America has been running ads for their financial education hub for some time, and believe me when I say I had no idea it existed until I saw the ads.

Awareness vs. Engagement

Now as I mentioned before, blanket awareness is certainly a challenge TV can help content marketers solve, but the downside is the friction that still exists between exposure to the ad and engagement with the content. You can’t exactly click a URL that pops up on a TV screen for three seconds. In my case, I made what your Google Analytics would call a “[direct]/[none]” visit to both Speed Stick’s YouTube channel and out of shock these brands were using air time to promote content over products, but the average target consumer may not be so inclined, even if their “second screen” is right in front of them. Furthermore, attribution is still a problem. Even a surge in direct visits while the spots are running can be hard to dissect further.

Thankfully, digital media has evolved mechanisms for dealing with this friction. If I’d seen either ad in a pre-roll on YouTube, with an annotation I could click to get me to the target destination, that would increase the likelihood of a visit and provide data back to the brand. There are also discovery platforms (cough) that are well-suited for both spreading the word to the masses and getting the right users to take desirable actions, like subscribing to your YouTube channel or signing up with your education hub.

Still, the fact that some brands see fit to leverage TV dollars to promote digital content is significant. The shift in mentality from pushing products to promoting value is nearing completion, and content is finding validity as a genuine customer service that is indispensable to any business.


What’s Next?

Expect to see a lot more brands deploy TV ads in service of their content and sync those efforts with their digital media as well. And expect content marketing budgets to get even more fluid than they already are, with TV dollars now in the mix.

Featured image courtesy of islandjoe via Flickr.

Brandon Carter

Brandon Carter

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