Advertising has become content

By September 2, 2013Advertising

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I love this picture which was a finalist in the ‘Spirit’ category at the Red Bull Illume Image Quest photo competition. The contrast between the obvious power of the wave and the relaxed surfer paddling on top is mind wrenching. The surfer is Sean Woolnough, the wave was in Namoto Island, Fiji, and the photo was taken by Stuart Gibson.

I also love that Red Bull and other great brands are funding this type of content by sponsoring competitions. One of the great things about the internet is that it facilitates the distribution of amazing free content (like this photo), but that creates a knock on problem of figuring out how artists get paid. One of the other great things about the internet is that ready access to reviews and social media has made it impossible for companies to compensate for bad products with big marketing budgets. Today’s winners have great products and further build trust with consumers by further enriching their lives by sponsoring and creating cool events and experiences. It’s somehow satisfying that with competitions like this these two trends are coming together and top brands are now offering at least a partial solution to the main problem of free content by paying artists to create.


  • Ronin_Jim

    This is true to some extent, though advertisers have been running such competitions for decades. The main difference is the means of distribution.

    Using photography as an example, where previously the advertiser might featured a winning photograph as part of an ad campaign, or as BP has done for a number of years in a gallery for display, now advertisers are able to push content out much more readily via social media.

    It can be tempting to say that the Internet sees advertisers doing things differently, but often it’s the means of application and distribution that is the only new thing… and we can say farewell to the old “stamped, self-addressed envelope”.

    This is also true of consumer interaction for brands – there’s an old advertising adage that nothing kills a bad product quicker than a good ad campaign. Again this is very much the same today, however with social media the word spreads faster and wider than it ever has.

    There’s rarely something new under the sun in marketing, but in the meantime the pressure to perform is so much greater when word of your success or failure is able to spread at the speed of light… or at least electrons.

  • Interesting. What I was trying to get to here is that Red Bull and others are spending money on photography competitions, flying bicycle stunts, and record breaking sky divers rather than conventional TV ad slots. Surely that is a change?

  • Ronin_Jim

    At the heart of what they do is a pretty familiar story – sports and celebrity endorsements, consumer competitions etc. However there are two areas where they really make this work:

    The first is in the strategic connection to their brand identity – everything goes back to the product promise that Redbull helps you achieve the impossible… whether this is Danny McAskill riding along a giant pencil on a bike or Felix Baumgardner jumping out of a balloon on the edge of space, or a photographic capturing moments like the one above.

    The second is their willingness to accompany their global traditional marketing efforts with use of technology to knit it all together and push it out to a wider audience. Previously we saw exposure to endorsements through TV ads, or in the field of sport, or through community programs arranged to support these activities. Today the Internet allows for so much more opportunity to share and experience these activities.

    But you are right, Red Bull, more than almost anyone makes the most full use of these new distribution channels and furthermore they’ve allowed it to feed back into the creative process.

  • Thanks Jim