Audience Engagement Guest Columns
3 mins read

Content? Creative? Context? The Battle for Consumer Engagement  

The World Media Group hosted a lively LinkedIn Live debate recently about whether Content, Creative or Context is the winning factor in delivering a successful content marketing campaign. The Wall Street Journal | Barron’s Group’s Chris Woodall chaired the panel featuring Emma Harrison from The New York Times; Shula Sinclair from M/Six; and Sam Adams from BBC Studios. The battle was on…

A successful content campaign is like a great first date

Using a dating analogy, Woodall started by explaining how several factors had to come together to make the perfect date. How the person looked or what they were wearing could be described as the Creative. The setting – for example a restaurant on Valentine’s Day – could be the Context. And what the other person said, or their views on life, could equate to the Content. Just as a combination of all three are important for a great date, finding the right blend of Content, Creative and Context is essential to a successful branded content campaign.

Each of the experts had a chance to present their case to demonstrate the value of their own area of expertise.

Content should be liquid, contagious and generous

Arguing for Content, Emma Harrison of the New York Times said a good story must be “liquid and contagious, flowing through culture and through different mediums,” to cut through the 10,000+ pieces of content consumers see each day. She described the importance of being generous with the stories, giving the reader something back. “Good content gives more than it receives, otherwise it would just be promotion,” she said. “Being generous with storytelling enriches a reader’s understanding, enhances their day-to-day and create a meaningful connection with our audience.”

Creative is the route to driving brand growth

That’s all well and good but using content to drive deeper brand engagement and connection can only happen once you have your advertising and creative in place, according to Shula Sinclair from M/Six. Firstly, Sinclair argued, establishing distinctiveness and brand salience – which are essential to brand growth – without diluting what you want the brand to represent, can only be conveyed through advertising or creative. Next, Sinclair cited the direct correlation between advertising investment and brand growth. Sinclair’s third point was that consumers don’t really care about brands and we instead should be “thinking about how we can creatively and compellingly convey what we have to say in a fraction of a second.”

Context guarantees brand safety and relevance 

Presenting the case for context, BBC Studios’ Sam Adams explained that seeing an advertising message in the right environment is essential to success because it offers brand safety, relevance and engagement. Many advertisers now use negative keyword targeting to make sure their ads don’t appear on the wrong pages. “It’s important not to get dragged into the temptation of advertising deemed as insensitive and inappropriate for obvious reasons. Advertising in trusted quality media ensures brand safety, but it also positions your brand as part of the conversation of the larger issues in the world,” she said.

After each of the three panellists had laid out their argument, the debate to find the ideal mix of Content Creative and Context began. Watch the video to see how the discussion panned out and to find out who was crowned the victor!

Spoiler alert: Context won! Congrats to Samantha Adams

The World Media Group is an alliance of leading global media organisations united in providing trusted and renowned journalism. Its members include The Atlantic, BBC Global News, Bloomberg Media, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, Insider, National Geographic, Politico Europe, Reuters, The New York Times Company, The Smithsonian, TIME, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, and associate member Euromoney, and partners Permutive and Smartology. To find out more about the World Media Group, please visit