MONDAY 14 AUG 2023 12:32 PM


Philip Horbury, director of moving image and partner at Emperor, explores how media landscapes and their audiences have changed.

'The attention economy.' There was a time when this phrase was only pinned to B2C advertising, branded content and thumb-stopping social. These super-saturated markets fought to satisfy the consumer’s ever-changing and insatiable appetite for content. 

In comparison, the world of B2B film seemed to be immune to the excitement. Captive audiences, more complex subject matter, and function over form created a more passive consumer. 

How times have changed. A fragmented media landscape, hybrid working patterns and a need for authenticity have forced a profound change in behaviours – seemingly permanently. Put simply, we don’t passively consume content anymore. 

With the boundary between home and work having been somewhat blurred, so has any boundary between “the content I expect and look forward to consuming in my own time”, and “the content I expect to be exposed to at work”.

‘Work me’ and ‘home me’ is a defunct concept now. So B2B or B2C misses the point. With audiences so selective and so in control, it’s just content. And we’re swimming in it.   

The sheer proliferation of content has led to a default expectation of quality. And it’s now remarkably high and more fickle than ever. In addition to this challenge, the world of corporate communications comes laden with assumptions and bags of cynicism.  

Let’s address a big issue head on. Before even clicking play, audiences often expect corporate content to be no more than functional. Judgement abounds, and critique is never far away. 

Conversely, B2C content is seen an escape. It defies convention and very often dispenses with anything resembling logic. The only rules being that there aren’t any. 

Back to B2B. It’s chiefly there to impart information and create understanding. To stay grounded. To work much harder on a fundamental, narrational level.  

It’s not seen as entertainment. Rather than “where are you going to take me?” it’s “where do I absolutely need to arrive at?” 

But those B2B seats are a much more active audience than we realise, and fully open to creativity. Even if they wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’re greeted by a pedestrian, questionable product when they press play.  

As communicators in this space, isn’t our highest calling to defy their expectations of mediocrity?

When corporate films are done well, they stick in the mind and compel a response. The reverse is also true. 

Just like teachers, you never forget the good ones. Nor the bad ones.