Jaguar has financed a new movie (see the film here) to accompany the launch of its new F Type model (above, pic nicked from the Sydney Morning Herald), its first new sports car in 50 years, according to Advertising Age. The makers of the twelve minute film, called ‘Desire’ and directed by a chap who has Dr Who amongst his credits (hmm), deny that it is merely a pale repeat of BMW’s famous series of short movies. Desire stars Homeland actor Damian Lewis and the plot revolves around a chase through a Chilean desert, in (you guessed) The Car. To top off the tie-ins, Lana Del Ray, no slouch in viral marketing herself- sings a new song to go with the movie. Ms Del Ray, or Ms Grant, as she was formerly known, launched her career with a huge YouTube hit. Desire airs through video sharing on social media, principally YouTube, and the plot includes no promotion at all, other than the presence of the car as the real star.
Here's another example. During the 1939 New York Easter Parade a group of debutantes spontaneously took Lucky Strike cigarettes out from their garters and lit up. Their defiance of convention was captured on national newsreels and in print coverage. This shocking incident was credited with making public cigarette smoking acceptable for women in the USA. Just one thing- it wasn't a real news item at all. It was planned by the man who invented public relations (PR), Eddie Bernays, who was working for Lucky Strike. Now that's what I call newsjacking.
As a consumer, I'm all for it. Advertising sucks, mostly. Entertain me, and I'm yours. Content may be an empty category, but it evinces all the things marketing should be about. It's a blank slate, or a blank screen, waiting to activate me through great writing, creativity, wit, technical adroitness and visual and musical imagination.
The thing is, the merger of editorial and advertising is happening from the advertising end too, as more ads take a narrative form to engage with consumers as entertainment, or tap into news coverage in order to look like a funny meme your friend might have put on Facebook. What is more, much of what passes for news is filtered through news and PR agencies. and mediated by the brand positioning of the media vehicle itself. Undeclared advertorial is becoming more common, as news media struggle over a shrinking group of news consumers. The model for news is now entertainment- check out the penny-dreadful narratives of the MailOnline, one of the most popular, and most profitable, news websites in the world.
If you think of a continuum with editorial in the middle, entertainment on the left and advertising on the right, you can see the whole line collapsing into each other. Which is kind of good, if you want your media content to entertain. If you want disinterested information, though, it could be confusing. It's a world designed by and for the quicksilver minds of well-informed, media-savvy, cynical consumers. Hard to say what the other 90% of the world make of it all. Most readers don't reflect critically on the way we respond to a text. We just respond.
And, speaking of articles that turn out to be book plugs, there is an interesting new book just out that happens to cover this topic very well from an academic perspective. It's called Promotional Culture and Convergence: Markets, Methods and Media. It's edited by Dr Helen Powell of the University of East London, published by Routledge, and my bit is chapter 3.
While I'm neatly integrating branded content into my disinterested blogpiece, I'll also mention another book, called Marketing in Context; Setting the Scene, which will go into production next week. MiC will offer my personal vision of the convergent world of contemporary marketing. I like the cover, but I've just realised that with the steel table, white tiled walls and signage it looks a bit like a butcher's shop. Maybe Palgrave MacMillan's artist decided that I'm dissecting the bloody corpse of marketing. Or selling lamb chops. Anyhoo, its published later this year (Warning: may contain gratuitous plugs to my own work).
For a few more of my thoughts on this topic see http://royalhollowaymarketing.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/marketing-and-content-in-convergence.html