On Manhattan's far West Side, at the Ogilvy building, inside Doug Scott's office, I've got my reporter's notebook in hand, prepared to chat about the hurdles brands must overcome when buying into content. The lavish office—the five skateboards are as judiciously appointed as the dozens of trophies—is befitting a founder and president of Ogilvy Entertainment, the award winning branded entertainment division of Ogilvy & Mather.
“Brands tend to push the product into the center of the room.”
The only thing missing from Doug Scott's office is Doug Scott. Today, he's at home with his kids, and who can blame him? He just returned from a week-long stint at Cannes, where he served as jury president for the Branded Content and Entertainment Lions. Add that trip to the 160,000 miles he flies every year, be it new business pitches in Dubai, South Africa and Switzerland, or one-day jaunts to L.A., and the picture of a jet-setting creative becomes that much clearer.
So, our chat will instead be conducted via phone, with me sitting in Doug's office. But no matter, Doug has been working in the branded content space for more than a decade, so he's seen it all, and when I ask him about brands' concerns when they're in the consideration phase for buying into a content program, he says unhesitatingly, “Cost.”
“What does the brand stand for beyond the product?”
But he quickly adds, “the perception of cost.”
“I think in today’s environment where you can self-distribute or use YouTube and Facebook and other social channels, the ability to earn media from good content is greater than it’s ever been,” he says. “The cost of production has significantly dropped. You can shoot on a GoPro or an iPhone. So the perception for brands, what their belief is relative to what their commercial costs have been over the years, is very much a misperception of the cost of it.”
And once they get over that hurdle? Scott continues, “then the brand's next big question is 'OK, so what story am I going to tell?'”
Scott believes that too many brands fall into the content trap of telling a story that revolves around their product.
“If we’re able to then unlock that storyline, that gives us very fertile territory to begin to develop creative ideas.”
“They tend to push the product into the center of the room,” he says. “So it's our job to help them really unlock the brand’s ‘best self.' What does the brand stand for beyond the product? What’s in their belief system? What’s part of their history? Where did they come from? How did their founder position the brand? If we’re able to then unlock that storyline, that gives us very fertile territory to begin to develop creative ideas.”
The third challenge for brands, says Scott, is that of testing. “Brands have become so conditioned to test,” he says, “there's a focus group for everything. Unfortunately, content does not really work that way, because despite the fact you're going to take a focus group and speak to thirty people, those thirty people are not the barometer of the Internet. Nor are they necessarily the cultural connectors that we’re going to look to, nor the influencers that we’re going to look to to promote that content.”
“Brands need to recognize that the deliverables, and the KPIs against that, are going to be more about brand lift, shift or awareness.”
These three hurdles, although big hurdles, are not insurmountable. Once a brand overcomes them and puts forward a first content initiative, I ask Doug, how do agencies play the role of content tour guide?
“Brands need to recognize that the deliverables, and the KPIs against that, are going to be more about brand lift, shift or awareness,” he says. “Secondarily, it's going to be about greater value for content than they would have spent on media; and then third, we'll arrive at an understanding of how they're driving sales or acquiring leads. Assuming that we’re going to be able to put reasonable KPIs around it, more times than not brands begin to recognize that they can do more content over the course of their marketing initiatives.”
“It’s about invitation, not interruption.”
Doug Scott's reputation—he’s been working in the space since 2001—lies in guiding brands to create content with impact. “He really believes in the permanence of fun and joy that underlies the success of all great things in the marketplace,” says star chef Mario Batali, who is working with Scott on “The High Road With Mario Batali,” currently airing on Hulu. “It’s about having a sense of the true importance of pop culture as it relates to big business.”
“It’s about invitation,” says Scott when I ask him how agencies can help brands create content that has relevance. “Not interruption. I think it’s critical for business owners to get the audience, to get the consumer, to invite them into their dialogue; invite them into that moment.”
“It’s critical for business owners to get the audience, to get the consumer, to invite them into their dialogue.”
And that leads back to delivering the right message at the right time to the right audience to the right device with the right offer. “When all of those things align,” says Scott, “rather than an impression—which is nothing more than me placing a signpost in front of you and expecting you to read it and react to it—what I’m providing to you is something that is reactionary. What I’m providing to you is a story.”