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The Content Coalition: An Open Letter to the Marketing Industry

Digitas

Scott Donaton

The Content Coalition: An Open Letter to the Marketing Industry

Content marketing is one of the fastest growing yet least-understood segments of the marketing industry. A group of industry leaders is setting out to change that.

Studies have proved that content is effective and efficient at moving the needle on measures from brand recall to lead generation, purchase intent to loyalty. And the majority of brand marketers in other studies report plans to increase their content investments.

That said . . . Many CMOs remain unsure whether they have the right content strategy or uncertain about the return on those investments. And crucial questions still swirl around the content space: How is it defined? Who should take the lead? What role does it play in the marketing mix and consumer journey? What does success look like?

Content marketing remains poorly defined, and everything from who makes it to how it gets distributed, measured and valued is up in the air.

With that in mind, Digitas last year issued a “call to arms” to establish a Content Coalition made up of players from across the ecosystem, including brand marketers, media owners and agencies. Our mission: Unite key stakeholders across the content marketing landscape in order to confront common challenges, develop best practices and unlock the full potential of content investments.

A steering committee was formed, representing leading companies from all sides of the table. The committee includes executives from American Express, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Wieden+Kennedy, Spark Foundry, Pereira & O’Dell, Carat, Turner, The New York Times, Observatory (formerly CAA Marketing) and Digitas.

We started with a common definition, which goes like this: “Content is invitational, not interruptive. Stories that people seek out, share and choose to spend time with.” 

The aim is to clearly differentiate content from advertising and avoid the trap that “everything is content.”

Next, we focused on common challenges and key issues, not an easy task with a group that includes multiple agendas, fierce rivals and differing points of view. Yet, three themes quickly emerged that impact all stakeholders:

Cost/value

  • The economics of content creation and distribution are often fuzzy and inconsistent.
  • There’s a need to shift the view of branded content from added value to accountable business investment.
  • Production costs are fragmented and complex across channels.
  • The concept of “working” and “non-working” dollars needs to be revisited to reflect how custom content is created and distributed and the value it returns.

Success metrics

  • How success is defined and measured needs to be better understood. (“The question isn’t, ‘does content work,’ but ‘how does my content work for me?’ “)
  • There’s a need for agreed-upon industry metrics that will give brands the confidence to invest more in brand content, and, in the words of one committee member, “take easy excuses off the table.”
  • There won’t be one answer: the content umbrella covers everything from brand journalism and influencer marketing to feature-length films and TV series. Each plays a different role and needs to be measured against specific goals.

Ownership and process

  • There’s a need for clarity on decision makers and organizational structures (“Where are the budgets?” “Who has the keys?”)
  • There’s also a need for clarity on the roles of various stakeholders, including marketers; media companies; creative/media/talent agencies; production companies and studios.
  • Legacy processes (such as traditional media RFPs) don’t recognize the realities of a new marketplace and can stifle creativity and innovation.

 The aim of the Content Coalition is to raise awareness of these issues and enlist other stakeholders to help develop common frameworks for measurement, propose ideal content processes that can be replicated and issue collective points of view on key issues. Because we believe:

Content is a key component of the future of marketing and a key part of the modern marketing mix.

The best content proves worthy of the investment of both a person’s time and a brand’s dollar.

The time to rewrite the rules is now.

And we invite the rest of the industry to join us on this journey.

Sincerely, 

The Content Coalition Steering Committee:

  • Jeannie Chu, VP-global brand content, American Express
  •  Colleen DeCourcy, chief creative officer, Wieden+Kennedy
  •  Scott Donaton, global chief content officer, Digitas
  •  Marissa Freeman, chief brand officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  • Jae Goodman, CEO, Observatory Marketing
  • Jill Kelly, chief marketing & communications officer, Digitas
  • Eric Levin, chief content officer, Spark Foundry
  • PJ Pereira, creative chairman, Pereira & O’Dell
  •  Shannon Pruitt, chief content officer, Carat
  • Dan Riess, EVP-content partnerships, Turner
  • Sebastian Tomich, global head of advertising & marketing solutions, The New York Times 
Scott Donaton

Scott Donaton

CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER AT Digitas

Scott leads our content practice, partnering with clients to tell their stories in innovative ways. Donaton launched and leads Digitas Studios, which develops unique custom content initiatives, strategies, and business models for clients.

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