How Television Ads Make the Case for Content Marketing

Fundamentally, content marketing lives in a completely different marketing world with different methodologies, practitioners and measurements. It is an inbound mechanism. Television advertising, on the other hand, is outbound — something we would much rather fast-forward through, hence the rise of TiVo, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Roku, etc.

So how would television advertising ever make a case for content marketing? The answer is, in itself, a question: When is the one time a year a huge percentage of Americans turn on their television with the intention of sitting through interruptive advertising? The answer: the Super Bowl.

Why Do We Watch Super Bowl Ads?
Last year, the Super Bowl was the third-most watched event in television history. On Feb. 3, 108.4 million people and 71 percent of all households tuned in to watch the Ravens beat the 49ers. That’s more households than watched the season finales of “Cheers,” “Seinfeld” or “Friends” and more than one-fifth the number of people that tuned in to watch the moon landing. Even though I have no data to back this up, I’m going to guess that not everyone who watched was a fan of either team, much less invested in the NFL.

I know that my mother sure doesn’t host a party every year because she’s a Ravens fan. And I know that most of the conversation among my colleagues the next day had little to do with the outcome of the game. So why do we turn on the television and sit through the commercial breaks?

Because we know that the advertisements are going to be good. We know that because brands are paying millions of dollars for those precious few moments of advertising, they are going to provide us with something great. The ability to produce a stellar Super Bowl ad has almost become the measure of a brand’s greatness.

We tune in and we don’t fast-forward, because we know that brands are providing us with an excellent, can’t-miss experience.

How Does That Make the Case for Content Marketing?
Typically a brand has fifteen to thirty seconds of commercial time to hopefully grab your attention and deliver their rate, their discounts or their benefit message. The communication is short. It’s usually shallow. The creative concepts usually have to be spread across a series of spots and media buys. The best a brand can hope for is that you get the message.

Super Bowl ads are created entirely differently. Brands know they have your attention. You’ve already raised your hand and said, “Yep, I’m here to listen.” Because they know they have your attention, which is something they ought to cherish, they also know they have to provide you with a great experience or they are going to lose it.

Such is content marketing. It is an inbound mechanism. Sure, there are paid mechanisms like Outbrain or Taboola that marketers use to bring in an audience. But they are still only paying for people who are clicking on syndicated headlines. Ultimately, content marketing practitioners are aiming to bring in more people through social media or organic search to offset some of those paid media costs.

Either way, in content marketing, you know you have the audience’s attention, and you have to provide a great experience devoid of any direct marketing or brand benefits in the content itself. Otherwise you’ll lose the audience’s attention. The same is true for Super Bowl advertising.

There’s only one difference with Super Bowl ads: You could potentially undo all the hard work you have done to build up your brand in an instant. Whereas in content marketing, you just lose a potential consumer to another piece of content at a much smaller investment risk. And there’s no Beyonce.


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David Germano
David Germano

David is the VP of Content Marketing for Empower Media Marketing, and runs Empower's Content Marketing division, Magnetic Content Studios. For more than 14 years, David has been helping brands develop sustained content marketing strategies and operate like media to build their own audiences. David is often speaking on the topic, and is a guest contributor to Content Marketing Institute.