Content marketing: not cheap, but clever

The Guardian recently published a Q&A with Outbrain about my thoughts on digital content marketing. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it in full below:


What are you most excited about in the digital marketing space at the moment?
It’s impressive to see the incredible velocity of change of social media in marketing. This isn’t a bolt-on media any more. The functionality of platforms, their reach and the human impulse to connect have made social media intuitive; the way we use those media for marketing has to be intuitive too. 18 months ago we were merrily showing TV ads on Facebook and building tenuous game apps, whether we were selling sports drinks or sports cars. You could just about get away with being “samey”.

But our audiences are ever more savvy, picky and vocal. They’re forcing us to raise the game. That’s an exciting challenge to have. It means when you get a client with vision, you’ve suddenly got the opportunity to create world-changing work. The Red Bull Space Jump proved that nothing is out of bounds.

What’s your favourite example of innovative digital marketing?
Our client Adidas Football produced incredible work for Brazil 2014. There had been a lot of hype within the industry about this being the ‘social World Cup’, but when it came to it, most people’s work was the same old thing – a flashy TV ad and some tweets. Adidas came at it social-first and stole the show. They ran gorgeous content across their social channels that captured the authentic spirit of the fans, and they got it live in seconds. They even used buildings as broadcast channels, and didn’t miss a beat. The campaign was innovative because it married the quality and pace of traditional sports broadcasting with the incredible reach and virality of social. I’ve never seen a brand get messaging right at such a scale and with such speed before.

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What’s next for digital content?
I hope, considered storytelling. There’s a gap widening between brands who are looking at the long-game and investing in content and those who still favour a method of butting into people’s digital activity with push-messages. Consumers demand more from brands – they buy into storytelling – but storytelling is an art and it takes time to perfect. Content marketers will have to take the time to work out what they should say and how best to say it, if they don’t want their audiences to tune out – or worse, switch them off.

This makes marketing an exciting place for people from editorial backgrounds as brands can now be producers of the very best content – content that challenges print, TV, even cinema for quality and audience share.

What defines good content?

What is the biggest myth about content marketing?
That it’s cheap. If you want to produce really great content at the volume social and digital channels demand, you need to invest in time and talent. There’s a reason that editorial staff are being picked up by agencies and platforms and that’s because these are people who know how to grab and retain the attention of a demographic. Content marketing is not cheap, but it is clever.

How are you amplifying and maximising your content?
I’m geekishly into data. As an agency, We Are Social is driven by data. Data gives us insights about our audience that helps to focus our work so, from the start, it’s more relevant to the right people. We use data to make sure we’re reacting to the right trends – that means our content is timely and relevant. And we use it to create media models that mean we can get our content in front of people we think it will appeal to most, without them feeling spammed. Editorial has always been a competitive industry, anything that gives you an edge is a weapon in your arsenal, and in digital that’s data.

Where do you go for great content?
The Onion, Heat Magazine, @HistoryInPix and I’m a recent disciple of the podcast “This American Life”. I also love what Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls is doing for a generation of teen girls brought up in a world that lauds butt-selfies over brains.

Please provide a link to great content you have #discovered recently and tell us why you think it’s great?
The #foxnewsfacts hashtag was great because it fought fear with humour.

I could lose hours on Interestment too. It’s great fodder for making you seem amusing, intellectual and generally well-rounded to your Facebook friends.