Content Is King
In the end it’s all about good old-fashioned editorial skills!

“Paid, owned and earned are here to stay.” So said Keith Weed who, as the CMO for Unilever (the second largest advertiser on the planet), knows what he is talking about.

He was speaking at the recent Advertising Association summit bringing together the great and good from all sides of the industry: media owners, brands and agencies. Weed told the audience of high-powered executives from the likes of Google, Mindshare and The Guardian that marketing needs to reinvent itself to meet the changing needs of consumers and the digital seismic shift that has put the consumer in charge. A world in which “everything is connected” and “consumers can access content whenever and wherever they want” means that marketers need to experiment and look for new models for integration.

“We are building brands and they need to be integrated and consistent,” he said. And for my business, content marketing agency Seven, that has got to be good news.
It seems to me that the debate has now moved on to the next phase, thanks to the likes of McKinsey, whose ‘brands are publishers’ mantra means content is now at the heart of any debate about the future of marketing.

“The reach of paid media…will increasingly serve as feeders into owned-media hubs where marketeers can offer a more engaging experience. Owned media require patience, cultivation and sustained engagement. Like the products of any good online publisher, a marketers owned media need a steady stream of traffic building programs, fresh content, and optimised design.”

The big question now remains how can brands go about the hard bit: creating, managing and, just as importantly, monetising their owned media channels. Every agency discipline – above the line, through the line, below the line, PR, digital, media – are all talking about content. But in the end it’s the good old-fashioned skills of journalists and editors that are needed. Creating content that consumers will happily engage with and pay for (either in hard cash or precious time) is what really matters. And whatever anyone tells you, creating original, engaging, on-brand content that lives happily on multiple owned and earned media platforms is just not that easy. We know.
Coca-Cola’s ‘Content 2020’ advertising strategy is to “move from creative excellence to content excellence.”

According to the people behind one of the world’s biggest brands,”it’s also not just about television. It’s about compelling content – whether it runs as a
30- or 60-second television commercial, a webisode, or five seconds on a mobile device”.

 So, McKinsey, Unilever, Coca-Cola…it looks like this is the year that owned media and, specifically, content marketing steps up and takes its place at the top table. And you don’t just have to take our word for it.

Why the downturn will be good for content marketers…

The dark clouds looming over the UK and global economy could turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to those of us working in the burgeoning content marketing sector.

Pressures on budgets means that businesses will more than ever be looking for innovative, cost effective ways to reach and engage with their customers (new and existing) and this is great news for us.

They will also be looking to put a value on all their marketing activity.
I predict that 2012 will be the year that marketers actually start shifting spend away from traditional paid media and into owned media assets. It’s been talked about for some time now in the marketing press but given the inevitable requirement for brands to invest in their own media channels and assets (web, mobile, email, video and print) to deliver deeper engagement and one profitable conversation with their customers, the issue now is not if but how much should they divert from ATL.
Advertising and media agencies now increasingly recognise that their clients requirements are changing and they need to recommend investment in owned media – their concern is how can they protect their business at the same time. It must send a chill down the spines of ad agencies around the world when they read that the likes of Coca Cola can no longer rely on the 30 second ad spot and instead need to turn to dynamic content creation and storytelling.
The big news is that it’s not just the self interested saying this - The big thinkers at McKinsey’s are all over this trend as illustrated by a spot-on observation in the esteemed Harvard Business Review Blog (no less) exploring the different ways that brands are using content in the US: “…retailers, banks, airlines…are rapidly recognizing the importance of content to their brands. They are building content supply chains that are guided by insights into customer behavior and replenished by customer-generated content. It’s a new publishing model, and one that retailers may be heading towards even faster than traditional media companies. So, the time seems right to ask: ‘What is your publishing strategy and who is your brand’s Editor-in-Chief?’“
That’s that then. It’s no longer a question of whether brands need to do this, but what they are now asking themselves is ‘How do we make this happen?’
As all agency disciplines scramble to diversify into content creation themselves there is going to be a massive opportunity for agencies like Seven, who have invested significantly in talent and capability in content creation, to grow significant share in this market.
The new game in town will be to grab a slice of the entire marketing budget and I predict the winners are going to be those who can best articulate the value of content to a business…but that can wait until the next blog….it’s going to be fascinating to see how it plays out.


It’s the Real Thing!

Loved the latest news coming out of global superbrand Cola Cola (no less) talking about how they are moving away from traditional advertising and instead are turning towards "storytelling and content creation" as it aims to double the size of its business over the next 10 years.

Of course, that’s a huge ambition but it’s really interesting to see how some of the world’s best marketers are thinking in terms of how to engage with their customers.

According to Jonathan Mildenhall, VP of global advertising and strategy and excellence, it’s all about “moving from creative excellence to content excellence”. This is great news for everyone working in the world of branded content - whether in print (that’s right good old customer magazines, they still work you know), online, video, social and mobile because as he says: “all advertisers need a lot more content so they can keep the engagement with consumers fresh and relevant because of the 24/7 connectivity.”

The conversations we are having with all of our existing and potential clients is all around how they can use content not only to engage with their customers but also how can they monetise it through advertising, product sales etc. And given the size of the opportunity as brands switch budgets out of traditional advertising and media buying into new owned and earned media channels there is a lot at stake.

Another story on mashable really drives home the point, talking about the intersection of content and commerce, an emerging breed of retail site that features magazine-like editorials, photo spreads and inspiring video, all designed to instruct and, ultimately, sell a product.

Of course there are going to be lots of content creators beating a path to the door of all brands but the truth is the game has moved on. Let battle commence.

Is time running out for advertising and media agencies?

Two recent articles in the marketing press caught my attention and got me thinking…

One was about how media agencies are essentially a busted flush and their days are numbered. The second was about how 80% of consumers now believe they wear the trousers in their relationship with brands.

It struck me that these two articles are inextricably linked and underline how today’s media landscape requires completely new thinking about how to engage with consumers and, importantly, how to keep their attention.

In both instances it seems to me that the common denominator is content, and its emerging power and importance in the marketing mix.

The more complex the media landscape becomes – that’s right the earned/owned media model, which only a few months back seemed so groundbreaking, but now sounds like old hat – the more clients need strategic content agencies like Seven to help them figure out what they should and shouldn’t be doing.

The truth is that what was once a relatively straightforward job of creating some content for a website or customer magazine is now so complicated that most clients are only just realising how important it is, how hard it is to manage and how much help they need.

Websites, SEO, magazines, email, mobile, social, video and apps are now essential channels for any brand wanting to connect with its customers. How to make sure they spend their budgets wisely, maximising effectiveness, reducing inefficiency, not to mention monetising the media channels, is taxing the very finest brains in marketing.

And in most cases it’s no good asking an advertising or media agency, as they will probably sell you something that just won’t work in this brave new world. Their business models – highly paid people making expensive advertising and paying for media inventory – just don’t work in a world where content and engagement are always ‘on’. A world where the arts of journalism, editing, photography, film-making all converge on the numerous inter-related content platforms that today’s consumers engage with every day.

As we all know, there are some very bright people working in advertising and media agencies and, of course, they are figuring out how best to deal with this growing demand from clients wanting to become media owners (and how their agency can make money from it). Their businesses are under threat and the smartest players are developing partnerships and relationships with content agencies like Seven, who have the infrastructure and the skills to help.

Others are simply trying to reposition themselves as the content creators of the future, even though most switched-on people realise that, for the most part, it is exactly that – positioning for the client’s benefit. They just can’t do it. The same goes for digital agencies. Mostly they just don’t get it about content and how to create it so that it works for the consumer and the client at a price that makes economic sense.

So, at last it is now the content agency that is best placed to answer the question asked by clients: what should our content strategy look like and who is going to manage it for me?

How Social Media Is Changing Paid, Earned & Owned Media
The Modern Media Agency Series is supported by IDG. IDG research shows that IT professionals are both early adopters of social media and many use it regularly. Ninety percent visit at least one social or business networking site each month. Find out more about the report here. Click here to learn…

It’s all about a single view of content

In the brave new world of ‘owned’ and ‘earned media’ the key to success for brands is to make sure they have ‘a singe view of content’. By seeing the world through the eyes of the customer it’s easy to see how such a view leads to a much more on brand and consistent experience. The real benefits come from seeing how content interacts across all platforms from print (yes, that’s right print is still very much alive), web, email, video, social and apps; it’s all about driving efficiency and understanding how to get the best out of every channel, minimising duplication (ie costs) and maximising impact. It also makes the client’s life so much easier working with one agency to deliver the whole range of content, which is potentially another huge cost saving in terms of time/resources required on the client side. Our work with New Look is a great example of this in action.  The New Look team at Seven develop fantastic content that appears in the customer magazine.  We also develop content for their online hub NL Daily and work with them to drive fan sign up on facebook, recently having hit the 1million mark.

The client as media owner trend is only going to accelerate which makes the single view even more critical.

Then we come to the whole idea of monetising content either through commercial revenues (good old fashioned advertising), sponsorship, product sales, app revenues, copy sales, exploiting data, reducing media spend and search costs on Google, etc. etc. the list goes on. Of course I have a vested interest here. As an agency that creates, manages and monetises content we are perfectly placed to help clients make sure not only that they have a single view of content, but also that they ensure they distribute it across as many platforms as possible while maximising every revenue opportunity that this model can deliver.

In future, the brands that grasp the single view will win, with reduced marketing costs and engaged customers.

Content is a boardroom issue

Something big has happened in client circles. It’s hard to tell exactly when it took place, maybe it has just crept up, but in my mind for the first time in my 25 years in media, content is now a board room issue. The well-worn cliché that ‘content is king’ has now come to pass .

It seems that most, if not all, clients, regardless of size, have figured out that a winning content strategy - and delivery, of course - is now business critical rather than just something that sits in the marketing department. Not only is it (content in all its forms – print, web, email, video, mobile, apps) taking an ever increasing share of client spend and therefore senior management focus, but it is now also seen as a revenue stream in its own right. When it’s done well, whether a printed magazine like Sainsbury’s Magazine, and iPad magazine like PROJECT, an email or building a Facebook group like our for New Look, clients can monetise it.  

I have also been out and about at a number of interesting conferences of late – like the RBS Media Conference – and it is clear to me that clients now get the fact that in the new world there are three types of media: bought media (where media agencies buy space from media owners); owned media (clients’ own websites, magazines, apps, etc); and earned media (Facebook, Twitter, and content distributed/published on other platforms because it’s good and relevant). It’s also evident that the marketing agency landscape is also set for significant change on the back of this shift, as everyone tries to own the content space.  In recent months the trade press has seen a plethora of clients launching their own media channels -
eg. Procter & Gamble is launching a free monthly digital beauty magazine to promote interest in its beauty portfolio or Tescos launching its own ad-funded TV show.

Over the next 3 years – which is as far as anyone dare to predict – brands (clients) will become the big media owners, creating (and sharing) content across the existing and new platforms that are springing up. It’s hard to believe that the i-Pad is only just over one year old and yet its influence on our creative and commercial thinking is huge. Who knows how tablets - there are forecast to be 280 odd million of them by 2015 – are going to change how we interact with media and therefore brands.

This trend of shifting client spend into owned media, which naturally becomes earned media, is set to accelerate as the ROI outperforms that of traditional media buying. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for bought media, it will always have a key role in marketing campaigns, it’s just that the client as media owner is here to stay and the winning agencies will be the ones best able to help clients navigate this brave new world and maximise and monetise all channels, deliver the strategy as well as implement it. That’s a big ask for the other agencies – above, below or through the line – but for a strategic content agency like Seven it’s what we do and have been doing for the past 20 years. It’s going to be an exciting time for us and challenging time for a lot of other agency disciplines, so watch this space….