It’s Primarily Content That Creates The Connections

In a new piece on AdAge, Friend of AdPulp (FoA) and BeanCast host, Bob Knorpp challenges the content-centric world view that’s so prevalent in marketing circles today.

We create endless blog posts and tweets and videos to fulfill our perceived need for content and call it our social-media strategy. Trouble is it’s not really a social strategy, as much as a search-engine-optimization strategy. We aren’t necessarily engaging an audience with this “content.” All we are doing is enticing them to watch and maybe share a link. So in the end the value of most “content strategies” is to create inbound link traffic, which is really SEO.

When we set out to create digital stories, maybe it’s time we left behind old models completely. Instead of looking for ways to get eyeballs on our videos or clicks to our pages, maybe we need more focus on creating multilayered experiences that keep people involved, immersed and interacting.

I appreciate the reminder to create multilayered immersive experiences that you, dear reader, will find deeply engaging. But I admit that I’m also at something of a loss. What do these experiences look and feel like on AdPulp? What do the experiences look and feel like on The BeanCast, or on any modern “ad” campaign you can think of?

Let’s take Crispin’s Subservient Chicken and Wieden’s Man On A Horse as examples. Both succeeded in capturing the imagination of millions. The campaigns were indeed mass marketing campaigns, but they didn’t feel like it, because individual people were invited to participate and play along.

When you look at Subservient Chicken and Man On A Horse, it seems pretty obvious that personalization and customization drives participation and sharing on the web. Yet, let’s also look at the content in these two cases. Ultimately, it was the content that people loved and wanted to share. So it’s easy to conclude that the rich experiences that Knorpp and others are calling for, are dependent on great content (which is helped immensely by personalization and customization). It’s the content that people immerse themselves in and interact with, then comes the sharing.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I think the bigger question is not whether interactivity is built into the content, but whether there is an ongoing story to tell. For instance, Rebecca Black continues to be an Internet meme not for her video, but for her continued odd behavior and fan videos. The story evolves and grows because it is not just a set piece of content, but a living story that fans can continually engage in.

    For me, that’s the heart of my argument. We as advertisers or content producers try to make great product for people to enjoy and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the Web offers the opportunity for a living story to evolve over time as well. So I argue that we content producers need to recognize this and consider user experience (UX) as deeply as the content that draws interest. I think this is a fundamental change in the creative process for digital that has not been fully explored enough, but needs to be.

    And there’s a reason I stayed away from specific examples in this first piece. It’s because the Web is rich enough to accomodate all kinds of meta-narratives and we shouldn’t box it in with the same old game mechanics or user generated content ideas all the time. So instead I focused on the end result, which is the stimulation of excitement about an experience (whatever form that takes) as being a new goal of digital marketing. Because excitement is the breeding ground of advocacy. And when tied to specific calls to action becomes a great way to stimulate both results for the program and ongoing loyalty for the long haul.

    Hope this clarifies a little.

    Bob Knorpp
    Host of The BeanCast

    • Have you been reading Henry Jenkins again, Bob?

      • Ha! While obviously influenced a bit there, I am not a fan of transmedia to that level. I think the jury is out on true effectiveness. But I have always believed that the Web offers unique story telling opportunities. But despite this, the best we can come up with is a video posted to YouTube? Just seems wrong.

        • Thanks for adding to the omnilogue, Bob.

          I agree, there is an opportunity for “a living story to evolve” on the web. But let’s think in practical terms here, about our own content offerings and imagine how they might be more interactive. What can we do to create better experiences for our readers/listeners?

          Shall I invite ten AdPulp readers at a time over to my backyard fire pit, so the sounds and smells and taste of AdPulp become more apparent? And what about The BeanCast? What does a living story mean to your listeners?

  2. That was great piece and analysis by Bob. Content engagement is a key part, as it’s what gives life to content. I’ve always believed that the right content can lead to the right people, based on who is interacting with that content via social gestures. Social media is adding an “expressiveness layer” to content that we didn’t have before. And that can be offered by aggregators (like, not just by the original content producers. 

    William MougayarCEO, Eqentia

  3. Interesting post. 

    I work in the world of small businesses and large social nets so what Old Spice and McDonald’s do is far from my daily point of view.

    I quibble with your conclusion though. Maybe it’s semantics but I think not.

    In a completely targetable and social world through the web, content is not the magnet. “Social gravity’, that attraction that happens between and individual and content is defined and dictated by context, the situation itself.

    Words are important here as categories. Context, where we meet our information defines what role content plays, not the other way around.

    Good discussion though.

    My thoughts on this in detail @ “Context not content is king” @