“Definitely Not Content” – Will Hayward’s Opening Keynote from SMW London



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Will Hayward, Chief Commercial Officer at Dazed Group, opened Social Media Week London with a warning about the industry’s approach to “content”. He has a real issue with the word. It does a huge injustice to all the work we create editorially for our audience, and commercially for advertisers. He feels it is an insult to our industry, and his ambition is for us to start to question what we can do that is more valuable and innovative when someone asks for content.

“We are at the end of an era, the content buzzword is on its way out.”


Dazed was set up 25 years ago by Rankin and Jefferson Hack. It was at a time of recession in the UK and culture itself was struggling. Dazed and Confused launched with the objective to represent the under-represented, to be a youth movement, and to present style and culture as a means of self-expression with real value. Today, it has 3.5m monthly uniques on the web, an even larger audience of 4.5m uniques across their social channels, and 50m uniques across its operated channels.

This week, Will announced that they are re-launching the business today as Dazed Media, consolidating all their titles under a new hierarchy. They are also launching a commercial partnership with Sharethrough who are experts at distributing media across social networks

Will’s initial thought was that social has fundamentally evolved but actually, the real story, is that culture has evolved to maximize the opportunities that social offers. You don’t have to look far to find great examples of this:

The importance of snapchat to Grime artists who have a bigger audience there even when they are doing live performances on Radio 1Xtra. The way that Sergei Polunin got more views than the global audience for most ballet networks with his YouTube video of his interpretation of the track Take Me to Church

Even humor has changed and new types of comedy have been born. The social web has changed memes – a great example was the response to David Cameron’s tweet last year about the Ukraine, which culminated in responses from people such as Patrick Stewart.

Will is a huge fan of the social web, and the level of creativity it has brought. To call it content is a simplification of what we do. People are not setting out to “create content,” but are thinking how they can create something new, innovative and meaningful. As an industry, we will muddy the waters if we continue to treat everything as content – a commodity that can be pumped out in high volume and have an advertiser logo added to it.


The Gartner Hype Cycle shows the adoption and maturity of technologies. Content marketing and native advertising are at their very peak and are about to pop.

Havas Media conducted a study this year to show that consumers are blind to branded content on Social Media. With just 20% of seen content driving an emotional response. Times are a changing.

The solution is what we have always known it to be: Create things that make a difference

We can seek advice from the original storyteller, Shakespeare. Think about the line in The Tempest, “a story which could make a deaf man hear again.” We need to create stuff so engaging and interesting that our audiences cannot help but listen and watch carefully

“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” – David Ogilvy

Bad content is the new banner – we can do better than that, we can aim higher and elevate our ambitions.

Next time someone suggests doing some content marketing, think what you could do that is truly inspirational.

The Ice Bucket Challenge had 14bn views on Facebook and YouTube last year. It may have started to grate at the time but last week The New York Times reported that a new study funded by the proceeds from the challenge has made a major breakthrough which could lead to therapy not just for ALS but other ailments too – now that is something to be proud of!

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