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Buzzfeed demonstrates why it’s all about substance over style

11th March 2014


This made those in the Hope&Glory office chuckle this week …

Amusing, isn’t it? And a bit clever. Not massively clever.

But a bit clever – clever enough at least to have delivered 650,000 views.

Now as well as raising a much-needed smile, it also made me stop and think – how much did this little ditty cost? A couple of thousand pounds? Less? Probably.

And all it took was a group of reasonably compliant office colleagues and a good idea.

Yet when it comes to creating branded content, we’re all too readily into a place where you could at the least multiply the cost of this video by five. And potentially where we’re adding a zero … and then doubling that.

For some reasons clients seem almost to expect that.

Now there is a perfectly reasonable argument that says that we as agency folks need to get paid for the time spent coming up with ideas that are going to work. We need to make sure that we’re seeing some value from the work we produce – and a thousand quid is pretty small beer by anyone’s standards.

What’s more, we tend to eye our chums over in ad-land and the eye-watering sums they would have charged to make a film like Buzzfeed’s.

The result is the cost of everything goes up. And with that the production values rise dramatically. And alongside a rapidly rising budget, expectations and the numbers required to justify the investment follow accordingly.

So I wonder whether, if we in the PR business could get our heads around this sort of rapid-fire, neat and sweet idea – those that tap into things our audiences already love, that will raise a smile, that don’t require a mass of product shots and complex logistics, we would be able to help our clients get savvier about the kinds of content they are delivering and hence the results that content delivers.

I’m all for the investment required to pull off a sure-fire video hit. But I am also all-too-aware how tough it is to get that right.

So my plea is that, rather than working out what we could deliver for the highest sum of money, we think first about what we could do for the smallest sum available. That way, we start to think creatively and put emotion, comedy and audience insight into our work. Rather than coming up with high-concept, high-production value ideas in the hope the client will get their cheque book out.

If there’s anything that we can learn from this Buzzfeed clip, it’s that substance has to come before style – and that we’ve all got to remember that when it comes to the content ideas we concoct.

James Gordon-MacIntosh is a managing partner at Hope&Glory PR. He’s idly contemplating an update to his book, PR Ideas of the Year.



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