Exploding the content myth with a content savant - Sonder
There is a lot of noise and interference when it comes to content strategy. Here's a simple, real world take on it from content legend Tim Flattery.
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Exploding the content myth with a content savant

Exploding the content myth with a content savant

You may not know Tim Flattery, but there’s a good chance you know his work… Most recently he launched WPP’s content specialist Wavemaker in North America (before MEC and Maxus folded into it). Tim’s content creation credentials are impeccable – he created and sold the Channel Nine show Sudden Impact, which was created for the TAC and the Tourism Australia show No Leave No Life on Channel Seven; he launched Netflix in Australia and he was Tourism Australia’s consultant on the $40m deal between TA and Baz Luhrmann for the film Australia.

So, let’s just say Tim gets content.

I sat down with him recently to unpick how he looks at content creation and where he sees the future of content development from an owned media perspective. Tim is definitely a communications firebrand and doesn’t pull punches! Here’s just a fraction of the ground we covered…


AF: So Tim, you’ve worked in a number of markets, most recently New York – how do you compare the US to Australia in terms of marketing?

TF: From what I’ve seen and experienced, I’d say that, in Australia, marketing is still largely focussed on advertising, whilst in the US marketing is a multi-faceted tradecraft. The problem for Australia is that, as Jeff Bezos says, advertising is a tax you pay on shit products. Marketing as a tradecraft has to embody far more than advertising in our current media climate.


AF: Whose doing content well from a marketing sense?

TF: Red Bull. I know a lot of marketers roll their eyes at Red Bull – it often gets dismissed because it’s “not relevant”, or “they have lots of money, I don’t”… but, the fact is, anyone who rolls their eyes at Red Bull should be fired. They should be fired because they are doing their business a disservice by not recognising how drastically thing have changed when engaging customers. Red Bull are creating a mathematics-based model for demand engineering. They are creating cultural demand through a highly sophisticated persuasion strategy that every brand can learn from, not disregard.


AF: Why though? A lot of brands are still doing well via the interruption model of advertising…

TF: The interruption model is slowly diminishing in its power. The on-demand media ecosystem is like oil and water when it comes to advertising. Once a person has gone into the ad free bubble, they’re essentially lost to traditional advertising. In the US, these people represent around $6 Billion in advertising revenue potential that no longer exists. Nielsen says around 4 million Australians watch TV every night, that’s great, but where are the remaining 20 million? That’s the story – that’s what brands need to uncover.

Of course, for some mass market businesses the spray-and-pray model is still working. But if you’re selling prestige cars, business class seats, premium insurance or luxury products, you’ll need another strategy. Audiences are declining, the cost of traditional media is increasing and they’re finding it harder and harder to engage these untouchables outside of Events, Out-of-Home and great Content.


AF: OK, if the paid media world is failing some marketers and they want to create a compelling content strategy, where do they begin?

TF: Customer-centricity is the first, last and every point in between. Serve them and they will serve you. I’m talking about the kind of customer-centricity that is whole-of-business, not just learning how you speak to them. Demonstrate care, intimacy and if it’s not too much, love, for your customers!

People have recently wised-up to how they’ve been treated by social media platforms for the last decade. Essentially, the savvy ones realise they are the product. They realise that their time and attention is being sold to a brand. There are a number of VC firms looking at ways to enable people to monetise their time and attention. Effectively paying people to consume.


AF: But what’s the secret code? How does a marketer frame their strategy in developing content, assuming they’ve gone deep on customer-centricity?

TF: Keep your content simple and keep it useful. It needs to be purpose built for your customers’ needs. I would say, don’t try to compete with entertainment unless your brand naturally resonates in that space. Rather, focus on what you can do to bring utility to your customers’ lives. The best content is of service to people and communities.

I’m a huge fan of the Bunning’s community strategy in Australia. It doesn’t work for all markets, but it resonates with Australians’. The sausage sizzle strategy works! Bunning’s have committed to the carpark BBQ – an action that is evocative, sensory and meaningful. In a chaotic world, this sort of thing is comforting and magnetic. More brands in Australia should be thinking like this. Be meaningful on some level and orient your actions to the broader community. Where you can, be tangible. Actually do something, rather than just talk about it. Westpac is another great example of this – the rescue helicopter has allowed them to generate a whole TV show on the back of it (Air Rescue). This is an owned media asset that is deployed for the greater good.


AF: Any final thoughts for our readers?

TF: Being a marketer is one of the toughest jobs nowadays. It’s incredibly hard to genuinely connect with people and customer-centricity is the only way forward. With the right research and insight, you can put facts ahead of assumption. When you have facts, you can actually do something that benefits your customers. Basically, employ the “don’t be a dickhead” strategy and you can’t go too wrong.

If you’d like to check out more of Tim’s work, take a look at www.behance.net/flattery