“People hate ads,” says Linda Knight. They’re the words that everyone who works in advertising dreads hearing, but Observatory’s chief creative officer is a firm believer that the industry needs to be reminded of them every now and then. “People don’t want to see them, they use ad blockers, and on the rare occasion they’re watching live TV and the ads come on, boom, they’re on another device, they get up and grab a sandwich, a glass of wine, go to the bathroom.”
So what’s the solution to adland’s eternal problem? As CCO of an agency that sits at the nexus of entertainment and advertising, Knight believes the answer lies in branded content. Industry watchers may remember that branded content was pitched as the future of advertising a decade or so ago before being replaced by new fads such as VR, AR, the metaverse etc. But whether it’s long-form documentaries or mini-series, there is a growing appetite among brands who want to connect with consumers on a deeper level. You only have to look at the cultural impact of Netflix series Drive to Survive, and the subsequent growth of broadcaster ESPN’s viewing figures for Formula 1, to see the broader appeal of a content-led approach.