And more and more 'content agencies' are springing up to give it to them. Even regular ad agencies are setting up 'content units' to service this growing 'need'.
Note to lawyers: I am not suggesting that any of these people are literally smoking crack. But I am suggesting their judgement is severely impaired.
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, has written an article in which he claims the Super Bowl advertisers would have been better off spending their money on "valuable, compelling and helpful content."
Joe reckons that Super Bowl ads - at $4 million a pop - are horrendously expensive. (This is not correct. Since over 110 million people see the ad, they're actually good value for money).
And he then lists some types of content these advertisers could have made instead, for the same money.
He suggests "53 Issues of your own magazine." (For $4 million, you can develop your own full-color 32-page print magazine delivered to 25,000 of your customers.)
Crikey. Would you really rather send some crappy magazines (brand-created magazines, let's fact it, are never going to match Vogue or Esquire) to just 25,000 customers, rather than have an ad in the Super Bowl?
Or how about "50 books (of about 225 pages) developed for your brand."
Who the hell would want to read a book about a brand, let alone 50?
Finally, "You can get your very own Chief Content Officer to develop and execute your content marketing strategy for 27 years (at an average salary of $150,000)."
Great. Instead of having an ad on the Super Bowl, I can pay the salary of someone to develop useless initiatives.
And Joe didn't even touch on the biggest new trend - brands making dull online videos, and calling it 'content'. Yes, it is possible to put films on the internet for zero media spend. And yes, with advances in video technology, it is possible to shoot them at extremely low cost. But just because something is inexpensive, doesn't mean you should do it.
Check the YouTube channels of any major brand (they all have them). These channels typically have about 45 cheaply-produced videos on them, each of which has a maximum of 1,000 views. That's just a waste of time and money. Just think of the salary costs of all the people who created that effectively invisible content.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of content when it's done well. "McDonalds Gets Grilled" was an interesting piece of brand-funded content that aired on TV so was seen by a huge audience, and enabled McDonalds to correct myths about how their food is prepared, while at the same time positioning the brand as caring and transparent. BMW's series of short films called 'The Hire' used top talent like Clive Owen and Mickey Rourke, and directors including Ang Lee and Tony Scott, and scored over 100 million views.
But to be done well, content requires way more thought and investment than it's currently getting. Too many marketers are simply doing it because they can do it cheaply.
The result is that far too much 'content' is just crap.