The language of content and how to find an agency that is fluent

The language of content: translating the buzz
The language of content: translating the buzz

More than a few voices speaking at once normally means an inability to hear anything that's being said, regardless of the wisdom of any one speaker.

The content debate can often feel like that, with every agency claiming they are experts, when in truth many are just good at shouting loudly. There are a few who speak the fluent tongue of content creators and there are those, including some from agencies, who are trying hard to master the language of content but failing (though I’m not sure their clients yet realise this).

So why does content demand a different language from traditional advertising and why, as a marketer, is there a need to be able to understand it?


Advertising is made to disrupt the editorial it sits around, content is created to engage. This fundamental truth means that whilst advertising aims itself at consumers, content’s creative starting point is to think of audiences. In order for the content to deliver, the strategy and creative has to be centred around how video, TV, audio or social media that’s being produced will create a relationship with the person being targeted. This means thinking about what relevant stories, entertainment or editorial the brand can deliver in order to serve that relationship.

It’s why Sainsbury’s can tell stories around Christmas as a means of boosting their brand. It’s why Wrigley’s have created BAFTA nominated iPhone games in order to push sensory messaging around 5 Gum. Thinking about audiences not consumers changes the nature of the dialogue at strategy and planning stage. 

The key questions become: How can I be relevant to my audience?  How can I have a relationship with them? What can I give to them that means they will value me more?


The audience (your audience) is agile. They jump from one platform to the next with ease.

Content is the tool that allows brands to ape the agility of their audiences. Coke with their 70-20-10 approach show that there needs to be some room in the marketing budget for agility because the old ways are no longer the only ways.  Brands such as Volvo (online video), Boots (radio), Perrier (interactive content) and Chivas Regal (games) have all shown agility in using other platforms to create engaging, successful and world class content in order to create relationships with their target audiences.

Fluent speakers

If you don’t speak a language fluently then you need a good translator. How does the marketer identify which type of agency is truly a native speaker in the language of content?

The conversation around content is dominated by "expert" agency voices who are still on their own learning curve as to what thinking and acting about content means. Content from brands is not just in competition for attention with other brands (like advertising) but is up against all content creators, such as the BBC or Netflix.

This means the mindset of marketers and agencies must be to create work that can win BAFTAs as well as Cannes Lions. If your agency has just employed a "Head of Content" or can’t show you any substantial content they created more than two years ago, they are on the language course with you. Find a new translator.


If there’s a lesson that marketers and agencies can learn from the world’s best content creators, whether they be Channel 4 or Red Bull, success in content is often about offering continuous and ongoing editorial to an audience.  

Many of the examples often cited as great content are short term bursts of activity. This displays the mindset of the "campaign" (old language) rather then the mindset of "continuous content" (new language). Truly great content is about servicing an audience week after week after week (or even day after day) with something that they want to engage in or with.


Real life conversations constantly adjust as new points are made or voices heard.

Conversation with the audience means being prepared to adapt content, dependent on what the audience are saying. This requirement to adjust rapidly can be a challenge for both marketers and agencies as content strategies can’t be story-boarded or media planned to the nth degree.

We all evangelise constantly to our friends about the great apps, games, TV shows or podcasts we love. Bombay Sapphire, Waitrose, PlayStation, Red Bull, Chipotle and many more have understood that this is the true power of content and the deep relationship it can build with the audience. This is why for marketers, learning this new language or finding an agency who can speak this language is so essential.

The requirement to understand the language will increase not only for marketers but for the agencies they use too. How fluent are you?

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