In Campaign’s article about content, Unilever’s CMO, Keith Weed, says something really interesting – that brands wanting their content to be high quality, always-on and cost-effective are struggling to achieve more than two of these three aims.
Of course this echoes that classic statement, beloved by everyone from your plumber to your ad agency, that you can have any two from fast, great and cheap. But in the case of content, this ain’t necessarily so.
Brands as publishers – the fast, great and cheap challenge
Let’s all agree that people do indeed appreciate hearing interesting things from organisations they like on a regular basis, so the main issue here is whether brands having ‘fast’ and ‘great’ content means sacrificing ‘cheap’.
First of all, if Keith is using traditional agencies for content, it may well not be cost-effective. We often hear about ‘brands becoming publishers’ but, as explored in an excellent debate at the ISBA annual conference, mainstream agencies don’t yet have the editorial skills to make fast, great and cheap content happen.
Clients are hiring specialist content agencies precisely because we offer this specialist editorial expertise. Like a daily newspaper, we have the skills, resource and production model to create high-quality, high-frequency content – and all at a fraction of the cost of a large ATL campaign.
To be clear on ‘great’ content, any kind of audio-visual extravaganza, from glossy online film to broadcast-quality AFP, will need a certain level of investment. But content specialists also create high quality, brand-building content on a daily basis – across all sorts of formats and channels, which people are happy to seek out, sign up for and even pay for.
Ask the experts
Keith’s challenge to create high-quality, always-on and cost-effective content is effectively a case of horses for courses. But with agencies of all disciplines piling into content like a modern-day gold rush and making bold claims of ‘new approaches’ and ‘owned media first’ methodologies, who should the modern CMO choose?
The content specialist’s defence is that media agencies buy and sell content but lack the editorial nous to make it, ad agencies are still geared towards the big-budget TV spot, and PR agencies are better at sharing stories than making them.
Perhaps one thing we can all agree on is that while content is undoubtedly a broad church, it’s certainly different to advertising. This distinction is illustrated by our research featured in Market Leader which demonstrates how advertising serves to make the brand promise and content is brilliant at keeping that promise. In which case, effectiveness and value come from complementary agencies working together.
The age of collaboration
We’re working with other agencies more than ever before, from advertising and PR, to customer experience and search. This stands to reason, as content is a wide-ranging, multi-channel thing, built from the ground up around audiences’ habits, interests and preferences.
But in this complex, always-on world, agencies of all disciplines are often working in the same channels – and these blurred lines don’t help collaboration.
So it’s more important than ever for agencies to articulate genuine USPs and for clients to understand how disciplines – including advertising and content – complement one another. Clear roles and open, respectful relationships keep the focus on the brand and its audiences.
The world champion of fast, great and cheap
Ultimately, Keith’s challenge is a good one – it absolutely should be possible to get any marcoms agency (or indeed a plumber) to deliver high-quality, cost-effective results in good time. But if you don’t use an expert with a clearly defined role, a compromise is likely.
And when it comes to content, quality really is in the eye of the beholder. Being useful or entertaining – or even just making someone feel valued every day – is more about editorial judgement than big budgets. That’s one of the joys of owned media.
In fact, pound for pound, content marketing might well be the fastest, greatest and cheapest thing a brand can do.