I get it. It’s fun to make content. The entire creative process is a joy. It’s fun to think about, debate, develop and launch an idea into a campaign. It’s euphoric to see your work come to life in the real world, but is all this content creation useful?
Is it in the best interests of our clients’ brands? Are we adding value or adding clutter?
A shift is happening. Content strategy is becoming less about making stuff to reach consumers and more about listening to what consumers want and leveraging other brands they like, or pre-existing content, to reach them.
To understand this shift, it’s helpful to look at the role of content in marketing and communications, as well as the players who want the mandate to manage it.
Increasingly, consumers encounter brands outside of shopping contexts. On any given day, I see posts of pics, videos, article and stories about things related to travel, shopping, entertainment -- you name it. However, often this content has very little to do with a category context like comparison of product features or capabilities.
Brands must be relevant in our culture. Content can help brands connect with consumers in cultural contexts in order to pull them into a category context (compare and buy). However, the definition and role of content has changed greatly in the last couple of years.
It’s not necessary to make a bunch of branded videos if other people can do it better and with more validity.
Many still think about "content" as creative agencies making things in a studio and then using a media agency to place those things before us, hoping to build a connection.
This is largely an un-measured and outdated view of content creation, and to be honest, it often wastes precious budget and server space.
Today, content strategy should be more about finding the exact consumers you want, deeply understanding their cultures, and working with the brands and platforms they care about. It’s not about making stuff they may like; it’s about working with the people or other brands they already like.
So what’s keeping us from making this shift?
Traditional advertising agencies have been slowly progressing toward irrelevancy and their studios are desperately hungry for work. Graphic designers, copywriters, and production managers are ready, willing and able to make stuff for any given brand. On the client side, marketers know the traditional advertising spots and placements don’t quite cut it anymore, so they have been convinced to make a lot more content for the Internet, e.g. pre-roll videos, scripted reality videos, etc.
Many agencies have convinced their clients they need to continue producing traditional advertising spots and placements, as well as ads for the online world. This thinking keeps the traditional advertising studios fed, but is it at the expense of the client’s business?
Is there a better way for brands to connect with consumers without wasting so much budget on endless amounts of creative stuff? Yes, there is a better way.
It’s time to stop making content and start leveraging content.
Today, most large brands spend a great deal of their media money with digital media platforms and owners like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Amazon. In fact, a lot of the Internet we experience in the West is hosted and populated by a few fiercely competitive players.
Each wants to be the place where brands put their digital advertising. Now, with vast amounts of consumer data on their side, those media companies can help clients understand their consumers better than most agencies, and this puts them in a very powerful position.
Through the rise of digital advertising, media platforms and owners played a pacifist role in the battle over owning the client’s creative mandate. To date, most clients seek out traditional advertising agencies for their “creative guidance.” However, the game is changing.
Now, the big media companies may soon become the creative leads.
During the “Mad Men” days, clients needed agencies to help them understand and elicit a response from consumers. However, in a data-driven world, guesswork goes away. Today, digital data can tell us everything we need to know about a consumers’ interests and behaviours to eliminate creative waste.
This year in Cannes, I had the privilege to meet with many large media companies and in every conversation, they shared their new creative resource and content offerings. Every large media company can now meet a client’s creative needs with very little need of a traditional agency studio.
The media companies often work directly with successful talent (super users) or other media brands that are already highly successful on their platforms, like Vice or BuzzFeed. The benefit for clients is that they get to leverage their already existing ad spend with those media companies, paying a reasonable fee that is highly effective and measured.
This means that we are already witnessing the death of agency-centralized creativity and intuition and the rise of mass learning and creativity through media owner data. Media owners are earning the right to do the creative work because they now have the platform, the audience, the data and the talent.