Part 2: Can you buy good content from a creative agency?

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Ad agencies are content factories that turn out the most successful brand showpieces, argues the CEO of TBWA/Chiat/Day New York

Editor's note: This is the second column in a two-part series discussing the content marketing land grab. The first column, written by David Brown (EVP, Meredith Xcelerated Marketing), was published yesterday.

San Francisco ad legend Howard Gossage once said, "People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad." Insert "experience" and "watch" into that quote in place of "read," and it sums up the exact moment brands and marketers are living in.

The audience loves content, but they don't necessarily love advertising. As a society we’ve been marketed to for decades. So we seemingly know all of the tricks. But it’s the ad agency that is best suited to connect brands and audiences and consumers.

Ad agencies truly understand all the dynamics required for brand success with brand content. We know the brands. We know the audience. We know how to create breakthrough and popular ideas. We know production. We know how to orchestrate all brand activities. And we know how to maximize the media for optimum delivery.

These days, there is a palpable cacophony surrounding Big Data. What good ad agencies do is turn that noise into a signal. It was an ad agency that turned the fact that only 4% of women would describe themselves as "beautiful" into the brand-content phenomenon "Sketches" — and lest we forget, it was an ad agency, Ogilvy, that helped invent Dove’s entire "Real Beauty" platform in the first place.

It’s one thing to get lucky and create a piece of content that goes viral. It’s quite another to do this in a systematic, timely and cost-efficient way. And this is precisely what good agencies do.

Ad agencies are built to be content factories. In fact, when you look at some of the most successful pieces of brand content, it’s clear that they are the creative products of creative factories: Volvo’s "Epic Split" was created by Forsman & Bodenfors; Metro Trains’ "Dumb Ways to Die" was created by McCann; Gatorade’s "Replay" was created by TBWA\Chiat\Day. And the first truly great piece of brand content, "BMW Films," was created by Fallon. 

We used to live in a world of Pick Two: "Fast. Cheap. Good. ... Pick two." Welcome to the era of "Pick Three."

Today everything needs to be faster, cheaper and good enough to connect with the audience; ad agencies are masters at adapting, understanding and maximizing the times we live in.

The "Oreo Tweet" during Super Bowl XLVIII by 360i could not have been more timely, cost-efficient and effective. Lowe’s "Fix in Six" Vines by BBDO are assembled inexpensively, quickly and have maximum power. And Old Spice, with Wieden + Kennedy, is creating a modern digital comedy channel on Instagram, producing content that’s as funny, or even funnier, than anything being launched by Comedy Central. It’s fast, cheap and brilliant. 

Anyone can come up with a great one-off. But if a piece of brand content isn’t working in concert with the rest of a brand’s messaging architecture, the brand may not get credit for it and miss the opportunity to contribute and compound a brand’s impact.

The best ad agencies work hand-in-hand with their media partners and see the big-picture media opportunities as well as all the moment-in-time opportunities. It’s this holistic partnership that ensures the right content will be delivered to the right audience at the right time.

All of which serves to remind us that while we live in a world in which a content provider could be everyone, it doesn’t mean a brand — and more specifically, a CMO — should work with just anyone.

Instead, look to the people who have been building brand content since the beginning of brands and the beginning of content itself.

Rob Schwartz is the CEO of TBWA/Chiat/Day New York.


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