• Inside the Digital Content NewFronts: Interview with Digitas' Global Creative Head Mark Beeching

    It seems like barely a week goes by these days without a new online-only original video series or new distribution agreement being announced. But even as content creators' enthusiasm for the new medium grows, there's one constant reality: if major advertising dollars don't flow into online video, these projects will not survive. Content creators, distributors and agencies need to make a coordinated, concerted effort to educate advertisers about these new opportunities in order to help drive spending.

    That's why the recently announced "Digital Content NewFronts" (DCNF) are a step in the right direction. Recognizing that a rising tide lifts all boats, five of the top ten online video destinations have banded together with ad agency Digitas to host two weeks of targeted events. But as Mark Beeching, Chief Global Creative and Strategy Director for Digitas explains in the following interview, the DCNF isn't as much an event as it is part of an ongoing, inclusive dialogue between brands and content creators/distributors looking to tap into completely new customer engagement opportunities.

    VideoNuze: What are the specific goals of DCNF?
    Mark Beeching: First, we talk about the 'Digital Content NewFronts,' which is Digitas and the five founders and all the events the partners are holding, and then there's the "Digitas NewFront," which is one of the events. There are slightly different goals for the two, but they face the same general direction. We see the whole series of events as a combination of marketplace and workshop environment. It's all about getting clients to think differently. And of course the best "thinking differently" is when clients spend their dollars in new ways.

    VN: How much emphasis will the marketplace component receive?
    MB: What we're absolutely looking to do here is shift TV dollars into native digital video, but also looking to shift from just a "buy for interruptive advertising," to deeper partnerships and collaborations between brands and media - whether content creators or distributors. Sometimes we call it a "Marketspace" - a place for collaboration and also for deals to be done.

    VN: How do you distinguish the DCNF from TV's Upfronts?
    MB: The most important difference is about "scarcity." At the TV upfront, it's all about limited supply, whereas here it's about infinite opportunity. That's why we created an exciting dynamic environment for the DCNF. This is all about being a place where ideas happen.

    VN: Can video properties other than the founding partners’ be involved in the DCNF?
    MB: Yes, this is meant to be inclusive and ultimately about making it easier for clients to get their hands around these opportunities. What I love about this is the diversity of content creators that will be involved. So you saw NBC's digital arm recently announce they'll be involved, and there are numerous others planned as well. All sessions will be published on the DCNF site.

    VN: Beyond the founders’ sessions, what are some of the other activities planned during the DCNF?
    MB: We're not ready to talk about yet, because we don't have complete alignment, but we will try to use this to have other conversations - inclusive with other agencies to bring more shape to the space, whether in areas like standardization, measurement or others. So helping clients understand what they're buying as well as the results. What I like to call their "return on content investment."

    VN: Discuss the process and challenges of getting the founding partners to collaborate, given they’re competing for budgets and attention?
    MB: We used CES as a venue to visit all partners. It was not a hard sell at all. Everyone immediately jumped on board. The principles were that the market is in danger of becoming "mess media" instead of "mass media" if we don't organize better for our clients to seize these opportunities, and money will continue to be spent in TV if we don't make it easier. So let's work together to have a rising tide lift all boats. Everyone is on board with that strategy, even though they're competing with their own offerings. But each founder is also confident about its own particular content, so that helps as well. The real challenge just became timing when all founders could stage their own events.

    VN: How will you define success for the DCNF?
    MB: If it wraps up after a couple of weeks, then it's not success. It's not about the "day" or the "buy." It's more about big projects being conceived and unleashed. The big success will be if we can point to some real content-driven projects for our brands. That's the main test: does this frame opportunities for brands to start using content to drive their engagement with customers?" That's the big change going on in marketing now. It annoys me when people talk about "paid, owned and earned" media because it's all "earned" now. Even when you're paying you have to earn attention through value. So I hope this helps pivot clients to doing all marketing as being earned in some way.

    VN: Are clients getting this point?
    MB: In some ways I think clients are looking for more change than the marketing industry wants to embrace. I think they want to embrace these opportunities and there are now enough success stories out there.

    VN: How will the DCNF grow in 2013 and beyond?
    MB: I'd like this to turn into an ongoing forum and marketplace. We want to make sure there's rigor and shape to this so that it's a sustained conversation between brands and content creators. Then continuing to scale the main events themselves and make sure it becomes more of a marketplace over time.

    VN: Thanks and good luck.