Advertisers now have more access to content creation providers than ever before. Stuart Pocock, Co-founder of The Observatory International, explains how they should determine who they work with.

We now have more media channels than at any time since, well, the dawn of time. So it’s only natural that more and more people want to help advertisers create content for these new digital channels.

Many of these newer players tout their ability to create content at speed, an essential pre-requisite for brands in the social media age.

Traditionally, of course, advertisers looked to their creative agency for content but many feel that they have been slow to adapt to the differing demands of digital, as well as simply being too slow and too expensive to deliver such content effectively.  

And whilst content agencies have been around for some time, many others have also thrown their hats into the content creation ring. So much so that the full à la carte menu of options could potentially give many businesses indigestion.

Choosing between them is difficult because not all of these offerings are obvious or come from the same starting point. They include:

  • The merger and integration of media and creative within one Group – e.g. Havas Creative Group and Havas Media Group;
  • Media owners launching their own in-house creative agencies e.g. Vertue at Vice, 14 Haussmann at Le Figaro;
  • Media agencies offering ‘home grown’ creative – or buying creative content agencies – Dentsu Aegis Group buying John Brown Media and Omnicom buying Redwood; and
  • Ericsson buying Red Bee – at one time part of the content production resource within the BBC.

Not all of these new players are likely to have the skills to create cut through or memorable material but with the pressure on creative agencies to catch up, they may be a more attractive option for brands that want to produce digital content fast and competitively.

The content conundrum creates challenges for advertisers; they not only have to choose the right type of media/creative content solution for their businesses but they also need to work out how these new agencies will fit with their current agency roster.

A further question that needs to be asked in an age of rapid content creation is how they need to change their own structure and ways of working.

Getting the right answers means carrying out appropriate due diligence on the relevant options. Do they understand the centre of gravity / provenance of the agency – is the creative capability of a media agency appropriate for the brand’s needs and the target audience, for example?

They also need to know that the offering has the depth and experience in the brand’s target audience and category – this can play to the strengths of specialist creative / media teams if properly matched – but can be a huge weakness if not.

Buying into the menu of supplier options requires careful thinking on the operational factors of existing agency rosters and ways of working. It also means taking steps to guarantee that the consumer and the customer journey remains at the start and the heart of the communications process and linked in a way that ensures that media choices aren’t driving creative production alone.

Advertisers also need to create the kind of internal structures that can enable agile working and rapid content creation. Can they rapidly adapt to test and learn? Can approval process be made quicker? Can sign-off levels be simplified?

They need to double their efforts to support integration and collaboration within the roster of agencies and particularly the potential raft of content creation agencies that also work on the business.

They need to establish new measurement processes to ensure that these new channels are producing a genuine return on investment and not just a huge volume of production.

Finally, they need to ensure they have best practice management process to protect against ad fraud as they invest more on digital channels that have been vulnerable.

Answering these questions is no easy task for many marketers. They might want to test the water with existing agency partners to understand more about how this approach tests and challenges their internal processes.

Once they’ve done that then they should be ready to ask themselves the big question: what role should rapid production of digital content play in their marketing communications and what proportion of their budget should they invest in it?

Right now, very few advertisers are able to answer. Ultimately, however, the decisions they make will determine which of these content creation options are likely to survive long-term.