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The New Dynamics of Brand Creation: Digital Content Has Changed Everything (Guest Column)

The media and advertising world just got a lot more interesting.

You see, a funny thing happened while you were streaming video on your phone, listening to podcasts and interacting with your smart, IP-connected TV: Great advertising morphed into great content that consumers don’t just passively consume. They actively demand it if you want their attention, their loyalty — and most of all, their personal data.

That’s right, modern brand advertisers are not selling product, they are using next-generation media to connect with their audiences in surprisingly intimate ways. And they are maniacally focused on creating rich, memorable and digitally native customer experiences.

Brands that are part of these content experiences get better message pickup because consumers don’t skip these “ads” — they share these experiences, add to them, amplify them and even talk about them while they watch. According to IAB research, more than half of all audiences watching over-the-top (OTT) TV devices like smart TVs discuss the brands they see on screen with the people they are watching with, and ad-supported programming is significantly more popular than subscription-only formats. And brands get something more valuable than a one-time sale: personal data that fuels everything they do in trying to capture the ongoing hearts and minds of customers.

These interactions also represent an enduring shift in the way the consumer economy now operates: Digital content is now the leading way to capture attention, drive engagement, and build brands — especially in the new direct-to-consumer brand landscape.

But you don’t have to just take my word for it. All these new dynamics of brand creation will be on full display at the first-ever Digital Content NewFronts West on Oct. 9 and 10 in Hollywood. The event will introduce brands and media buyers to the latest in original digital programming and feature brand content opportunities across emerging media, including podcasts, augmented reality, and virtual reality.

Themed “Hello, LA: Where Ideas Meet Content,” the NewFronts West marketplace is a showcase for content creators — whether they are big-name media companies or digital natives — to present new technologies and never-seen-before storytelling experiences that drive unprecedented engagement at scale. Even more significant, brands can expect to see the type of inventive digital programming that can help them forge meaningful, direct connections and conversations with consumers.

Hollywood has a successful history in captivating audiences all over the world, and who better to deliver truly rich media experiences than media companies, publishers and entertainment creators based in Los Angeles. Publishers as varied as Snap, Vice Media, the Los Angeles Times, LiveXLive, Meredith and Viacom will be presenting digital content experiences that push the boundaries of what it means to create (and co-create) digital programming.

NewFronts West will also illuminate what’s happening in the fast-changing new influencer landscape, the surprising universe of direct-to-consumer internet celebrities. With incredibly devoted fan bases, these internet stars command engagement that is often orders of magnitude higher than traditional talent — and the intimacy they have with their followers gives them license to market to them in novel (and astonishingly effective) ways.

Make no mistake, the importance of digital content will continue to grow as a driver of revenue and return on investment for both buyers and sellers — especially in a multiscreen world in which this content is consumed on-demand, all-the-time and everywhere. Digital content really is disrupting everything and these new types of programming offer unparalleled opportunities to tell stories and have intimate customer conversations that are make-or-break in today’s direct brand economy.

Anna Bager is EVP of industry initiatives for the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

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