Q&A with Graham McDonnell Creative Director, T Brand Studio International for The New York Times

January 11, 2018

Graham McDonnell Creative Director, T Brand Studio International for The New York Times and also a judge for the World Media Awards which are now open for entries UNTIL 25TH JANUARY 2018. You can enter here.

General Questions

Q: Why should agencies/advertisers enter the World Media Awards?
Graham: The World Media Awards stand as a showcase of the very best content being created in the industry over the past few years and winning an award gives the recognition of your peers at being the best in your respective field.

Q: What are you hoping for most when you judge the awards?
Graham: True examples of exemplary creativity and innovation, but most of all, evidence that the project delivered tangible results for the client

Q: What advice can you give potential entrants for creating a winning entry?
Graham: As a former winner, I’d advise that creating award-winning projects isn’t enough. You need to be able to effectively communicate the key points and outcomes if you stand a chance of winning.

Content/native advertising questions

Q: What are the most important factors to consider when creating content-led advertising? (e.g. story, relevance, length of content, type of content, media partner)?
Graham: All of the above are important, but the biggest thing to consider is your audience and the content they come to your platform to consume. If your branded content deviates from this, they aren’t likely to engage with it.

Q: Podcasts are having a ‘golden moment’ in content-driven advertising. What’s driving their ascendance?
Graham: I’d say the relationship between the medium and the story. Podcasts have been around for years, but only recently have brands found the right type of story that works well in this form.

Q: Content needs to be able to attract audience’s attention, not simply disrupt and annoy. What’s the key to truly engaging content?
Graham: There’s a famous quote in advertising that goes along the lines of ‘We need to stop Interrupting what people are interested in, and be what they’re interested in”, which sums it up perfectly.

International planning questions

Q: Do some content platforms work more universally across multiple regions than others? E.g. does video work well everywhere but editorial content work better in some regions than others?
Graham: I think story is more important than region when deciding on how to execute your content. If the story is relevant to the audience and gives them a relative ‘payoff’ from their decision to invest their time in consuming it, then you’re already half way there

Q: How do you balance planning and implementation of cross-border branded content campaigns between ‘local’ offices and ‘head office’?
Graham: As our international studio alone has offices in London, Paris and Hong Kong, this has been a challenge we have had to overcome ourselves recently. Having driven people ‘on the ground’ is imperative to success, and our job as leads is to make sure a solid set of processes are in place and understood before you jump in

Q: What is the key to finding a content marketing idea that can translate across borders?
Graham: Simplify. Interests and trends can change vastly from region to region, but if you take it back a step and try to find a visceral, personal story (rather than product or service based) then this tends to work

About you

Q: Your dream holiday destination?
Graham: Vietnam

Q: What was your first single/music download?
Graham: No Doubt – Don’t Speak

Q: Your favourite film?
Graham: Jurassic Park

Q: Your favourite TV series?
Graham: Sherlock

Q: Your favourite app for work? Google InboxAnd for leisure/personal use?
Graham: Instagram

Q: Graham: Your favourite drink?
Graham: Old Fashioned

Q: Your guilty pleasure?
Graham: 80s Music