Content saturation: The issue on every advertiser’s mind

In an increasingly crowded media landscape, how to reach through the morass of content and connect with the audience? The question is a pressing one for everyone working in the media, but particularly so for advertising and marketing professionals agrees Mindshare's Chief Client Officer Nick Ashley. 

“People are absolutely bombarded with content these days,” says Mindshare’s chief client officer Nick Ashley. “Just think of the commute to work – you see hundreds of campaigns, but typically remember just one.” And the problem is by no means unique to billboards and posters. US market research firm Compete found that just one in 20 Facebook users returned to a page within 30 days of “liking” it, while the latest figures from Thinkbox show that the average viewer watches around 48 TV ads a day. But don’t despair, says Dan Hagen, head of planning at media agency Carat. There are effective strategies that can help campaigns navigate an advertising environment close to saturation point.

“The lazy option is to just have an ad and splash it everywhere,” he says. “But by heavily tailoring the content to individuals, you can make it stand out.” The idea of market segmentation and personalisation is not new, but the amount of customer data available has drastically changed what is possible.

Hagen points to his agency’s work with Vauxhall as an example. “On-demand video providers like 4oD (Channel 4’s online streaming service) typically have demographic information about their viewers, like age and gender. This allowed us to create separate car ads for male and female viewers, making the content far more relevant to them personally.” Hagen says that the level of personalisation possible will only increase with time.

But tailoring content is not the only way to make it stand out, thinks Ashley. “Marketing communication is not just a one-way process any more – it can be far more reciprocal.”

By weaving content into existing online conversations, marketing campaigns can harness trends, and get consumers to do some of the distribution for them. Ashley highlights the Nike+ jogging tool as a case in point. Through wristbands and smartphone apps, Nike allows people to track their running mileage, encouraging them to share it and compete with each other through dedicated platforms. This can be far more effective than some conventional campaigns, he says. “Rather than just telling people about your brand, or trying to inspire them with adverts, you’re actually connecting with their lives in an integral way.”

But such grand strategies can be high in risk, Hagen says, and sometimes simple messages are more appropriate given the right context. “Working with Pimms, we had stuff prepared for the right weather. And as soon as it was sunny enough, we’d say: fancy a Pimms?”