Commentary

What You Say Is As Important As Where You Say It

In an interview I read last week, Babs Rangaiah, Unilever’s vice president of global media innovation and ventures, conveniently summarized all the current challenges of delivering brand content  to consumers effectively. He listed ad blocking, the problematic programmatic evolution, and the need to clean up ad fraud and execute direct relationships with leading digital platforms and start-ups.

For argument’s sake, let’s say we could wave a magic wand and make all those issues go away. Then all of a sudden we would be forced to think more about the creation of actual content. And what marketers tend to forget today is that crap delivery of great content is as bad as great delivery of crap content.

I am (in industry terms) as old as dirt, having started my professional life in the full-service advertising agency era. And back then, as is apparently the case today, the relationship between creatives and marketers was challenged, at best. In a recent study of 789 marketers and creatives by Visually, a content creation agency, creative teams complained about the lack of clear briefings and useful client feedback when ideas are presented. At the same time, clients complained about creatives not listening to the brief and always responding late. Plus, can we make the logo bigger, please? According to Visually’s study, nothing has changed from what I remember, as today’s challenges are still those of unmet and misaligned expectations.

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Permit me to add another challenge to those problems. In many a marketing department meeting, I hear frustration that their agency is incapable of creating the volume, quality and appropriately priced content needed to “feed the beast” of their content factory (such as daily social media updates, “live” responses to consumer feedback, creation of at least one new video every week -- as well as the “big buckets” of the ad campaign, i.e., the creative executions for traditional media).

I believe marketers are both unrealistic and naïve on this issue. It is one thing to say that your department is going to create a content-factory approach and will have a strategy to connect with your target audience “in real time across all relevant touch points.” But actually doing this requires a huge change in almost everything the marketing department of yesterday was set up to do.

You will need different people with different skill sets, you will need to integrate marketing with customer service and/or corporate communications, you will need a whole new ecosystem of agencies that can deliver constant content at scale within your means, and probably a whole new way of measuring all your marketing efforts. If you are in a business where online is also a critical sales channel (exclusively, or as one of many channels) you will need to integrate with sales and trade marketing as well.

Personally, I think the whole “native advertising” hype will soon diminish to its proper role within the marketing mix: important for some campaigns, but not a silver bullet to overcome all of our tech-delivery problems. What is probably far more important and effective is placing a bigger focus on creative development: that is, what you can create within your means (financially as well as in terms of resources), and how well you do this.

Doing creative content better (not just more) might be a bigger piece of today’s brand communications puzzle than you think.

2 comments about "What You Say Is As Important As Where You Say It".
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  1. Steve Climons from Crossover Creative, November 9, 2015 at 11:41 a.m.

    Like this Maarten. Every time something (ad, content, etc.) is created there is an opportunity to say something that matters not only for the marketer's brand but their intended audience. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 9, 2015 at 12:11 p.m.

    Think this goes back to one of your other columns about the "I have a degree in marketing so I can do it better and make everybody a lot of money (including myself) and change everything and I will get a title and it will happen very quickly so be prepared and we don't need to pay all of those experienced people and we will tear down the walls and everybody gets a cookie." Putting out an effective message that continues to inspire people to give you their money does not come in as a never ending whirlwind. 

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