Ad-Funded Content: A Utilitarian View

I have just had an enormously enjoyable call with Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman & Creative Director at OgilvyOne Worldwide. Rory will be speaking at the Advertising-Funded Content workstream at our Telco 2.0 event and, judging by our call, will be well worth listening to. He has an unfair advantage over many others in that he reminds me strongly of the doyenne of cricket commentators, Henry Blofeld, when he speaks which makes him very easy to listen to.

I am ashamed to admit that I assumed Rory would be a sterotypical advertising man and espose the views of Hollywood/Bollywood entertainment as being the key driver of digital advertising. Not a bit of it. He reminded me of economics lessons from years ago with his utilitarian views on content. For those a bit rusty on their Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, Rory subscribes to the view that content provides "the greatest happiness for the greatest number" by focusing NOT on entertainment ("I can get that anywhere") but on CONVENIENCE and RELEVANCE. His view is that The Ivy is not the "best" restaurant in the world because there is only one and so the ability to serve a large number of people is poor - something like MacDonald's is much better in terms of the overall value it provides.

Fair enough, if you take a macro view (though any individual dining at The Ivy would probably take issue). Applying this concept to mobile content, Rory says that operators should focus on content that makes users' lives easier - such as SMS payments for the London congestion charge.

He says that advertisers will follow a strong content offering with targeted advertising (witness the social networking sites) but that operators need to move away from a small volume of high-quality content to a much higher volume of cheaper, contextually relevant offerings.

Touché!