The debate rages on regarding which is more important for online marketers, content or targeting. Well, I have the answer. Content will always win!
I’ve come at this question from a couple different angles and the winning argument is quite simple: Content can survive, and thrive, without data targeting, but data targeting cannot live without content. Simply put, if you build good content people will find it, but if you have crappy content, no amount of data or targeting can save you -- because your audience, no matter how targeted, simply won’t engage!
Its similar to that age-old truism in marketing: Great advertising cannot sell a poor product. You can’t make consumers purchase a product that simply doesn’t work for them. In online marketing you can’t push an ad lacking a fair value exchange for the customer, regardless of how many data points you use to deliver that ad. A fair value exchange, or at the very least something that grabs their attention, is what good advertising is all about.
Good creative and good products always win, and so does good content! A site that is witty, provides a value, is unique, or is simply done well will generate an audience. A piece of great content will drive eyeballs. No matter how you say it, content is king and data has quickly become a commodity. I can buy data from any hundreds of sources, many of which have sprouted up in just the last two years. I can find purchase, social graph, network and connection data, and I can find recency information that qualifies all of the above to help me develop a true analysis of my potential customer -- but if the message doesn’t resonate, then all that targeting is for nothing.
On the flip side, a general ad buy with excellent creative that breaks through the clutter will create awareness. With the Web, awareness can easily go viral, and your audience will start to talk about you to one another. Creative has not been commoditized because creative cannot be commoditized. Production of that creative certainly can be, but the development of an idea, and the application of that idea to your campaign, will always be something special. To quote another age-old discussion, it’s the art behind the science. Science is certainly important, but science without art is useless.
I know some of you with your pumped-up valuations and your millions of dollars in revenue are going to argue with me -- but it doesn’t matter, because if you argue this point, then you’re simply missing the point. I didn’t say data isn’t valuable; I said it’s secondary to creative and content. That concept is irrefutable. There’s really no argument you can make! How many times have you seen a campaign tank because the creative was poor? Trust me -- I know you’ve used that excuse.
Of course, you can’t talk about content and creative online without making the simple observation that most of it sucks. Most creative messaging online is just bad, and that’s why performance is so low. Online marketing, regardless of how much money gets put into it, will never surpass TV as the primary vehicle until the creative gets better. That depends on two things happening; the placements need to become more impactful, and the people creating those messages need to get better. Of course, that could be an article for another day entirely, right?
Do you agree with my analysis? Let me know on the Spin Board!