In more than 15 years of working with media buying agencies, I’ve heard countless numbers of buyers complain that sellers don’t get it – and vice versa. It’s usually around the transaction side of advertising. Ad buyers want to boil everything into formulaic spreadsheets while the sellers continue to tell the same story of reach, brand building and scale while trying to avoid discussions of click-thru. Both sides seem to be talking past the other.
The divide is even more pronounced when it comes to content marketing. That’s because content marketing is a more sophisticated conversation than it is a transaction. And it’s filled with blurred lines, twists, and turns. As a result of this disconnect, brands often miss out on an effective method of building consumer trust and loyalty – while agencies forfeit the chance to participate in a growing ad medium.
For brands like Kraft, Procter & Gamble, American Express and many others, content can take the form of everything from how-to articles to videos to recipes. In fact, to put it in recipe form: Content is the meat of the digital media sandwich.
Together, brands, agencies, and content marketers need to establish a new form of dialogue. Collectively, they can create content while simultaneously ensuring that it reaches a scaled audience. They can have conversations about measurable outcomes that don’t end with CPM-like acronyms. Content and marketing objectives can be finely tuned – and meshed effectively. It is just a question of finding some common footing and a better understanding of each group’s different languages. Once we can get past our own version of the Tower of Babel, the better.
Content marketing is not a fad that’s fading away anytime soon. It requires organizations and individuals who are comfortable coloring outside the lines a bit to achieve the common goal of reaching scale-qualified audiences.
So how can we bridge the disconnect?
Start by inviting content into planning discussions. Think of content marketing as an investment, not a one-time expense that will help improve the value of all other media tactics. By using content marketing during short-term campaign cycles, agencies can not only get immediate eyeballs but also long-term value for their clients by building brand equity and long-tail consumer sharing.
Everyone on all sides of the digital marketing world is trying to put together three key strategies: search, mobile and social. But it’s really tough, if not impossible, for any of those strategies to succeed without content. For example, the first question you’ll get asked about a Twitter strategy is, “What do you plan to Tweet?” Moreover, consumers share content, not ads. With content marketing, brand names get attached to that shared content.
Be realistic about capabilities. Quality content comes in all shapes, sizes and budgets. But the creation should be a collaborative effort. We should set up an industry-wide content marketing working group – consisting of agencies, brands and suppliers – to develop standards, metrics and best practices.
It’s imperative to distill conversations down to a palatable level that leads to efficient transactions. In this day and age, with resources scarce and so much at stake for brands, agencies, and digital content marketers it’s important to get the solutions right — quickly and on the first try.
Devin Johnson is chief operating officer of Studio One Networks.
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