As content consumption adapts to the digital age, brand touchpoints and media formats are diversifying. Print publications were among the first of the old guard to feel the effects; now, mainstream media is hustling to keep up, pivoting to a new community-based consumption model. Traditional channels are merging and morphing, with online platforms such as Refinery29 branching out into experiences with its 29Rooms immersive exhibit; print titles like Glamour developing into entertainment brands with bespoke video content and podcasts; media conglomerates such as Condé Nast expanding into creative agencies and consultancies with in-house studio CNX; and luxury retailers like Matchesfashion.com shifting to content creation and curation with live-streamed in-studio talks. Even the prestigious cornerstone of culture New York Times is crossing channels, with a television adaptation of its popular column “Modern Love”—which has already found success as a podcast—airing on Amazon in October 2019.
Forced to be creatively nimble in this shifting and mutable landscape, brands are sidestepping the constructs of conventional verticals and evolving into ecosystems, curators, advisors and friends.
Procter & Gamble is the latest example of an established brand breaking traditional category boundaries. In September 2019, the personal and home care behemoth announced a pioneering new partnership with National Geographic, focused on inspiring global activism. “It’s not product placement. It’s not sponsored content. It’s prestige television,” stated Fast Company. Called Activate, the project is a six-part documentary series that features the work of social and environmental activists around the world. It is not tied to retail or brands, but exists to bolster the company’s ethos in parallel to its product portfolio. Procter & Gamble “is genuinely committed to putting social good at the center of its business model,” says Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, which is coproducing the series. “Activate was a logical extension of that model.”