Sunday, February 09, 2014

Are 'Content Marketers' Smoking Crack?

More and more Clients are saying they want 'content'.

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.


scot said...

Amen brother! Amen!

Unknown said...

Derek said...
Well said.

Anonymous said...

Well said! Some people watch the Superbowl just for the ads! (Surely not just me?). But it's a ritual unto itself. People look forward to the ads - it's a huge talking point and has mass viral appeal.
You are so right with this article.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I can breathe now.
I don't have the audience or eloquence to be able to express what you have written, so I'm glad you did.
We need to get this message to marketers now. As a freelance creative I'm tired of having to sit and polish a clients content idea only to be blamed when it's not as good as they thought it was going to be. Suddenly it becomes my fault. Unless of course it's good in which case I'm long gone with my $1000 freelance cheque while they wallow in their creative genius.

Scamp said...

My friend Tom Donald adds this wonderful soundbite from Thom Yorke on the same subject.

Paul said...

Here here Simon. While there is no doubt "content" is here to stay, your comments are totally on point, and ... much needed against the escalating sound of people clambering for the content $ (badly).

Rob said...

The thing that always alarms me about many of the people who shout about content is they forget that whatever it is, it has to be about things the audience want to know/feel/see not what you want them to know/feel/see.

It's a small point, but it's the difference between attracting an audience or chasing them & bashing them over the head until they plead for mercy.

Bentos said...

Yes, most brand's YouTube channels are deeply disappointing. But then again you could say the same about most brand's Facebook pages, Twitter streams or TV ads. There are plenty which are making the effort and getting rewarded by using a mix of different types of video to achieve different goals.

Find any branded channel with more 100k+ subscribers and I'll show you exactly how their doing it if you want.

Jim Powell said...

I wonder if one of the problems of content marketers is the misevaluation of the trivial decisions that we make when we buy certain things?

Very important to the brand owner for sure, but less important to us?

So if asked why we bought something over something else we shrug and say "I dunno, just fancied a change..."

That's why brands seem to struggle with the idea that people are not really that loyal to their brand at certain times but still consume with their category. And so get into the idea of 'engagement', "if only they cared as much about our brand as we do." Engagement is content providers reasoning.

Finally content marketers seems to deny we live in a mass production and consumption world. By advocating mass segmenting of consumers, i.e. "we must only converse with our people'"

Not realising that their consumers are much like everyone else's, i.e. making trivial decisions very often about what to buy or not and consuming largely from market leaders due to their mental and physical availability.

Anonymous said...

Good article and true. Seriously, way too many adland parasites shitting in the punch bowl these days. Stick to BTL -- done on Word or Excel if you wanna really add some nice vector shit.

Mighty said...

Setting aside the word 'content' for a moment, let's look at what most marketers envision when developing a plan for this field of marketing: cheaply and hastily produced stuff they magically hope will hit well above the investment they've made and...ahem...Go Viral. Now in the case of advertising, it's generally only the well-planned and brilliantly executed ads/ideas (which are 'content' if you want to look at it that way) that get noticed.

So we have a situation a bit like at the break-up of the Soviet Union where we have a land grab happening where a bunch of charlatans are convincing hapless brand managers that they need to be "engaging" their "communities" with stuff that is only a couple of rungs above email spam. And it turns out that the only people interested in this stuff are the 1-2% of customers that give a shit about your brand. And let's face it - People Do Not Like Brands.

Sell! Sell! said...

Marketers and their advisors tend to vastly overestimate the interest that consumers have in their brand.

The problem is that these marketers and advisors are influenced by the fact that they themselves are really interested in the brand.

And by the fact that most brands have a very small percentage of users who seem like "enthusiasts" - more likely they are just heavy users who display the traits of someone who heavily uses it (ie. they appear from the outside to "like" the brand for other reasons).

Poorly conducted and analysed research can lead to this misinterpretation.

The next wrong (and expensive) assumption is that they can influence less heavy and non-users to adopt the attitude of the heavy users ('engage' them).

Their (incorrect) assumption being that this imaginary shift in attitude will influence their behaviour ie, that their new 'engagement' will make them buy more.

When unfortunately, the reverse has been shown to be true - behaviour (buying, using) influences attitude, not the other way around.

Of course none of this matters to a specialist whose bread and butter relies on selling his specialism.

I just wish more marketers had the knowledge, confidence or will to reject this nonsense.

Anonymous said...


Tom Morton said...

Mighty, whoever you are, your analogy about the break up of the Soviet Union is fantastic.

Palengat said...

That bang you heard was an iceberg. You're going down. You're asking yourselves the wrong questions. The role of brands is to strengthen relationships between friends. Ask yourself, therefore, what can the brand do, not say, to be more useful, to help nurture advocacy. The measure of which is how much it is used and passed on. Also ask yourself, 'how do I find out what the brand should do next to make this happen?'

Scamp said...

Interesting contribution to the debate - this article analysing whether Coke's content strategy is paying off.

Sell! Sell! said...

"The role of brands is to strengthen relationships between friends"

Utter bollocks.

That wasn't the sound of an iceberg. It was the sound of the bullshit hitting the fan.

Kate Richardson said...

Good content has a role to play. Good being the operative word.

But like all other loud mouthed trends that have come before it (social media included) it assumes that content is the panacea for all marketing ills, and to the exclusion of all else, rather than seeing the role it can play in a broader campaign.

To confuse sending magazines to 25,000 people with the reach achieved by advertising during the SuperBowl is just plain silly.

Opium smoker said...

You've used a lot of words to say bad content is a waste of money.
Bad advertising is a waste of money. But it's a bigger waste.
You also seem to think 110m impressions is good value for $4m. Have you any idea how many impressions you could get for that on digital? I think there is definitely someone smoking crack and it's not content makers.