“The word ‘content’ is an insult to our industry.” Bold opening words from Will Hayward, Chief Commercial Director at Dazed, in his Social Media Week London session. “The era of content being the buzzword is coming to an end,” he claims. “It’s not just the nomenclature I object to, it’s the culture it engenders.” Hayward believes we need to raise our ambitions above easy click-bait, and create something with real meaning.
Dazed & Confused was established almost 25 years ago as a means of “representing the unrepresented”, with a genuine belief that style and culture were a valid means of self-expression. This week the company is re-launching as Dazed Media, with exactly the same mission. In fact, when Dazed’s editorial director Jefferson Hack offered Hayward the job of Chief Commercial Director, it was on the condition they he never describe anything the group creates as “content.”
Editorially, Dazed Media is continuing its tradition of experimentation, most notably in Another magazine’s recent cover story; an interview with Tilda Swinton conducted entirely in character as Marianne Lane, ahead of the film’s release next year. “We could have just done 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Tilda Swinton,” says Hayward, “but she came to us with this idea and we ran with it.”
This “piece of non-fiction” just goes to show that branded content is far from dead. We just need to shake off the listicle-heavy associations, and offer up something which people will find has genuine value. Hayward points to the Macy’s parade, originated by first generation immigrant workers in the 1920s, as something with lasting cultural significance which still delivers value to that brand almost a century later.
And there are other examples where so-called “content” has yielded real benefits; last summer’s Ice Bucket Challenge was mocked by critics of ‘slacktivism’, but it is an undeniable fact that the phenomenon raised much-needed research funding for the ALS Association. “Make a positive contribution,” says Hayward. “Do something special.”
It is important for brands to resist being drawn into the content race, and instead focus on who they are and what they do best. Just because the Daily Mail churns out 800 pieces of stuff every day, doesn’t mean you have to; Hayward likens it to stepping into the ring with a professional wrestler — you’re going to lose. To sum up his feelings on current content and what we should be truly trying for, Hayward quotes David Ogilvy: