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How To Cut Through The Content Overload To Tell A Great Story - Learnings From DMX Dublin 2016

Posted By 256 Media, Friday 11 March 2016

We are 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash than we are to purposely click a display ad.

Let that sink in for a second. That’s a damning stat for digital advertising—but it gets worse.

Click through rates are down to a staggeringly low 0.2% versus 2.4% in 2002. Our attention span has collapsed too. In 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds. In 2015, it’s 8 seconds. That’s a whole second less than a goldfish. Glub.

With display advertising, TV ads, and our collective attention span in freefall, is digital doomed? Not so. Content and smarts are the solution to a dogged question. But how can marketers establish their brand and stand out?

Hundreds of marketers took to the Aviva for marketing summit DMX Dublin to find answers. Two solutions very quickly became clear.


“Content is bigger than marketing,” said Melissa Romo, Global Content Director at Sage. Flash back five years and Melissa’s title wouldn’t have existed. Sage’s move towards becoming a publishing powerhouse and newsroom, however, means Melissa’s role is vital to external and internal communications.

Sage is primarily an accounting software and Melissa is on a mission to make accounting evocative, to tap into the emotions beyond the software. With attention spans so low and the volume of content so high, emotional storytelling is the outlier.

The Significant Objects Theory is a study around the idea of objectively increasing price with the power of narrative. Researchers bought €128 of junk products, hired writers to craft a backstory for the items, and put them up for sale on auction websites.

The items had a 2800% profit margin, making over €4000 on their limited run. The items were still rubbish, but they were rubbish with a careful story. The most powerful marketing has always been in stories and in using them to ascribe value.

Content, Melissa said, needs to do four things:

1. Be authentic
2. Be differential
3. Be insightful
4. Be sought after


While certain brands have mastered storytelling (think John Lewis and Dove), many are struggling to see the emotion behind the content—to construct a real, tangible story.

And that’s why video has seen such a rise to the fore. Video production is up, and has swamped social. But what makes video tick? An evocative story absolutely, but feeling isn’t limited to the bittersweet nostalgia that has dominated advertising for the last year.

Humour is a win too. About eighteen months ago, Nokia was acquired by Microsoft. The iPhone 6 and the Nokia Lumia were scheduled to release at roughly the same time. Spec wise, the Lumia didn’t stand a chance against the Apple powerhouse. Its one KSP was Cortana, its voice command centre that was far superior to the then much-maligned Siri.

Microsoft’s Tejal Patel led the charge—but how could she drive success on a reasonably small budget when the iPhone was the clear standout?

With a witty video and integrated distribution.

Patel and her team joined forces with a freelancer to create a Siri support group.


With a solid idea and high production values, the distribution strategy was the next pillar of success, forking into five channels:

1. Owned media
2. Social media
3. PR
4. Bought media e.g. display
5. Influencer and advocate support

Patel also leveraged the strength of their digital channels, with the trifecta of mobile (ads in games and apps), search, and fixed web. A key to victory was Twitter ‘competitive conquesting’ and the Lumia dominating the iPhone 6 chat on the social platform.

The video notched up 6.4 million completed views, 13 million media impressions, 102 million video impressions, and 14,000 shares. A clear win for the Lumia.

Unruly’s Nicki Spooner compounded the conversation around video with her Future Video Manifesto, a seven step success to doing video well:

- Establish clarity of purpose/goals
- Be authentic
- Make an emotional connection
- Keep it personal
- Optimise for mobile
- Get social
- Test, learn, and be prepared to be agile

For example, a five second video made on a shoestring for a German radio station emphasised smart and agile, and notched up 18 million views:


The video was released the day after Germany beat Brazil. Simple and agile, it worked because great storytelling is timeless. Story should be at the heart of the campaign—but innovation is important too.


John Lewis exemplify storytelling and innovation. Monty the Penguin is at the intersection of both. Almost everyone is familiar with the story of Monty, a teddy bear penguin, who comes to life.


The team at Techdept were given the task of taking the campaign from TV to in-store. In eight weeks, they had to build a machine to rig and animate toys so kids could bring their favourite teddy to life in Monty’s Magical Toy Machine.


The Techdept team constructed a process of innovation to meet the needs of the project:

1. Have a clear vision
2. Break down walls
3. Success needs failure – test, fail, fail better
4. Expect a bumpy ride
5. Open your minBe prepared to look broader than you’ve done before

In the four weeks the machine was in store in London, 2600 toys were brought to life.

The Apprentice runner-up Vana Koutsomitis echoed the sentiment around innovation. A serial entrepreneur, one of Koutsomitis’ current projects is VinobyVana, an aromatised wine aimed at millennial women.

The idea of bringing aromatised, low-calorie wine to the UK is innovative in itself. But further again, Koutsomitis wants to revolutionise the image of wine. It’s mass appeal, but mass appeal built on the back of a burgeoning social campaign. The bottles even bear the hashtag. Koutsomitis intends to tap into the social mainframe with a product that’s moved away from the stuffy, traditional image associated with wine.

The message from DMX Dublin 2016 is clear: while content is in its prime, we’re in a saturated market. There’s a lot of crappy content out there, and evocative storytelling, smart video marketing, and innovation are needed to elevate a brand in the face of social saturation, decreased attention spans, and the constant pursuit of more.

As Pete Blackshaw said, “There’s nothing more motivating than the deafening sound of silence.” As marketers, it’s our job to own that silence, to fill it with interesting, innovative content. It’s not about you, the marketer, anymore. It’s about the consumer and telling a story that feels like it’s for them.

Easier said than done? Possibly. But possible? Absolutely.


This post was written by 256 Media, the creative content specialists, and originally published on


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