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The Dilemma of the Modern Marketer

All the talk from big advertisers like Procter & Gamble and Unilever is about streamlining, transparency and cost savings on media and content production, and whether they have the right agency model. The giant agency holding groups, even after the departure of Sir Martin Sorrell from WPP, appear more obsessed with themselves than their clients. It’s like they’ve forgotten the need that created them (clients going global, and their need to create locally relevant and culturally-attuned traditional broadcast and print based ad campaigns) and their reason to exist.

Who’d be a marketer?
Today’s ‘modern marketer’ is under more pressure than ever, their resources stretched to breaking point, faced with a whole range of issues, not least among them changing consumer behaviour and the tsunami of rapidly created, hyper personalized content required to engage across a multiplicity of channels. The burning question we hear more and more is “How do I best ensure effective and efficient brilliant, cost-efficient engaging integrated customer centric content creation, personalization and international dissemination?"

Essentially, delivering MORE, BETTER, FASTER, CHEAPER. A tough brief..?

Everybody seems to have a definitive solution – appoint a holding company to do everything, go with an independent micro-network, do it all in house alongside one of the new wave of production companies, and hire a management consultancy(s) to make sense of it all. But the structural point is this – the solution doesn’t matter, marketers can take their work in-house or work alongside the best creative agency in the world, while also bringing in the strongest management consultants to advise on strategy (and increasingly deliver as well…), but unless the clients are not appropriately restructured around customer behaviour and have a firm grip of the content (and supporting agency) operating model, it becomes sort of irrelevant, and nothing will change. Change requires different thinking… and does not happen by accident.

It is counterintuitive that so much of our industry is held under the vice-like grip and control of network agencies (who btw struggle to deliver on the promise they and their clients have bought into and sold), intent on preserving their own interests, rather than those of their clients. You can understand why, with shareholder expectations and stock market pressures that they do this, but it is diametrically opposed to the interests of those that pay their bills. If one landed from Mars, knowing what we know today, what would we build if nothing existed?

Bringing back the creative mantra
There are some encouraging signs of independent thinking. MDC and its creative mantra (and extraordinary creative powerhouse agency brands – all under one roof) is inspirational. As is The Age of Independence initiative from media agency Goodstuff (newly-independent having bought themselves out of Omnicom), bringing together delicious creative expressions of independence from 20 of our industry’s best UK independent agencies. If you have not seen it, look it up. It’s brilliant. As Anatoly Roytman from Accenture Interactive insists, there will be a plethora of creative hot shops to choose from in the future. This can only be a good thing for clients. But how to execute these ideas across channel, across border?

The traditional agency network model, designed in a different era for a different purpose – churning out TV and print ads, is not structurally suited to customer engagement and integrated personalised content marketing, and simply can’t keep up with demand. And even if it could, clients could not afford it. The best content creators now develop integrated content – internal and external – in an integrated but yet channel agnostic way, across every touchpoint: including product collateral, ads, emails, websites, whitepapers, brochures, videos, social, experiential, HR, training and development…

Marketers continue to identify both a lack of bandwidth to create content (51%), and producing enough content (50%) among the top challenges they face. Some of these issues are created in the artificial silos that have emerged over time inside client organizations, but they’re getting too little support from their creative partners with this. WPP’s (‘Team Blankety Blank’) ‘horizontality’, and Publicis’ ‘Power of One’ offerings – whilst great strides in the right direction – are not necessarily answering that need.

Scale and complexity increase with every campaign, language and culture supported, channel adopted, and new product added. Each piece of content needs to be amplified across channels – distributed and promoted on paid, free and owned mediums, across multiple social channels, and in an increasingly bespoke and personalized way. Each touchpoint and channel requires its own content in support of an event, product launch, message, campaign or promotion. The explosion of global content must also be tailored to reflect language culture and nuanced context, and cater to individuals’ needs.

Bad news. It’s only going to get worse
The bad news. If you think things are hard to manage now, strap yourselves in. Things are only going to get more complex. It is imperative that modern content marketers nail an efficient and future-proof GCOM (Global Content Operating Model), a way to joint up your internal dots, and align your content processes (across your entire enterprise, from design, through testing, manufacturing, marketing, sales and after-sales and service) and imperative to deploy best in class (and AI of course!) technology support your content planning, creation, management, adaptation and publishing.

Think what ‘de-coupling’ did for the advertising production industry, but on steroids. Enlightened clients we are working with call this de-coupling 4.0. In reality it is more of a re-coupling of the content supply chain, across all stages of the product (or service) life cycle, internal and external and customer engagement. Those that master this end to end content challenge will create space to create better, faster, more engaging, more effective hyper-personal content, across more channels, at a lower fixed cost, rather than take the axe to the creative product – with money to re-invest. Pretty neat. MORE, BETTER, FASTER, CHEAPER (paragraph 3 above) nailed.

Far from perfect (what is?), and not without its challenges, but I have seen at first-hand what can happen as Managing Director of the content production factory at Spark44, Jaguar Land Rover’s 1,000+ FTE in-house agency, when end to end content is properly planned across all silos, every stage of the product lifecycle and customer engagement. Notwithstanding the extraordinary savings it has – and continues to deliver – every year, what a power for change installing a 21st century GCOM has been for transforming their entire global marketing organization.

Building on the themes outlined here, over the next few month’s we’ll provide inspiration and our perspectives on some of the hardest questions in a changing world where content is currency, drives not just the customer journey, but the entire Product Lifecycle management process, and connects each internal and external customer touchpoint. We’ll also be looking at how you – as a marketer – are tackling some of these big challenges through our SDL 2018 Content Survey. If you’re involved in content production or marketing content, we’d love to hear your opinion on a range of topics impacting your world. Click here to take part!