Oh My! We Have A Content Problem, Say Marketing Execs

There’s a lot of crap content coming from brands. Even the best publishers are interrupting us with ads every chance they get. And the traditional agencies are chasing old ideas about consumers being OK with bad creative. Mobile ads are a disastrous afterthought.

Can anyone really disagree with these statements?

Content was a widely popular topic at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and those were just some of the critical but candid conversations executives from big brands like P&G and PepsiCo had with the advertising, marketing and creative professionals who attended the Festival.

It’s Time To Raise The Bar On Content Quality

In a panel discussion, both P&G’s Global Brand Officer Marc Pritchard and PepsiCo’s President of Global Beverage Group bluntly called out that there is a lot of branded content out there that is simply crap. Pritchard even admitted that some of P&G’s own content belongs to the “crap” category.

With the technologies we have today, every marketer has the capability to produce content. But Pritchard warns, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

As The Onion’s CCO Rick Hanmann said, great branded content is really hard to do. It takes real passion, knowledge and hard work to create something your customers will love.

Pritchard adds that all this bad content is disrupting people’s web experience and is helping to spur the growth of ad blockers. He points to platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram as brands who truly understand how to deliver a good user experience to consumers.

Pritchard urges other brands, agencies and media companies to follow suit and “raise the bar” on their creativity and quality of the content they produce.

PepsiCo’s Jakeman is less friendly towards agencies. He believes his own content studio is capable of creating good content itself, so good that media platforms have been going to his studio asking to produce content for them.

Jakeman says his studio is not intended to disrupt or steal business from agencies, reiterating some of the critiques he had for advertisers and agencies at the ANA “Masters of Marketing” conference last year.

He says that for years he has asked the industry to evolve the broken, unsustainable model agencies operate on, so they can start creating truly disruptive and innovative work people will love.

But year after year, agencies have not changed, and so Jakeman says they decided to do it themselves.

Perhaps Yahoo has taken Jakeman’s advice as the struggling tech, advertising and publishing company announced at Cannes that it is offering a new content marketing studio to brands and advertisers.

The Storytellers initiative would give them access to Yahoo’s editorial resources as well as its data and native ad services. The Storytellers studio will also offer content workshops, consulting and video creation services as well as social media influencer activations and partnership extensions, to help brands develop and deliver engaging content that reaches their target audience.

Better Quality, Less Intrusive Content Is Needed

Similar sentiments were shared at another panel discussion on ad blocking, hosted by none other than the president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau Randall Rothenberg − who is known for his infamous relationship with ad blockers.

Rothenberg in the past has famously criticized ad blockers as for-profit companies and even ‘extortionists‘ who are hurting the advertising and publishing industry with their so-called ‘whitelisting’ services, which allows certain ads to be deemed unintrusive and shown to ad blocker users − where some are paid by advertisers to ‘whitelist’ their ads.

While Rothenberg thinks ad blockers are extortion-based businesses, he said the panel would focus more on the content problem that is driving consumers to ad blockers. He calls out the industry to start serving people, not impressions, with better advertising. Rothenberg says advertisers and agencies need to create ads that provide “utility” or would make consumers want to engage with them in other ways.

A huge problem R/GA’s VP of content and partnership Jess Greenwood sees with today’s marketers and agencies is that mobile ads are often treated as a “disastrous” afterthought where creatives produced for desktop are reused for mobile. This is ineffective and hugely problematic because mobile screens are smaller than desktop, making mobile ads that much more intrusive. Greenwood says consumers are so resistant to mobile ads that 60% of clicks on mobile ads are actually clicked mistakenly.

Like Rothenberg, Greenwood believes that higher quality and less intrusive mobile ad creatives with better targeting can potentially slow down the growth of ad blocking.

For The New York Times president and CEO, Mark Thompson, the root cause of the ad blocking problem is digital ads. He argues that the publishing industry needs to educate consumers that their content is valuable and that they should be willing to pay for it. Earlier last month the Times announced that it plans to offer readers a premium ad-free subscription that would cost more than the standard subscription, if they wish to completely opt out of advertising.

While the Times has tried working with companies like GE on branded content, Thompson says this model is difficult to scale, so it isn’t and can’t be the only solution to the ad blocking problem.

Rothenberg, Greenwood and Thompson all agreed that the sympathy approach of asking consumers to disable ad blockers or paying ad blockers to whitelist their ad content is just not feasible in the long run.

Create Content That Consumers Actually Want

But can we really blame consumers for wanting to block ads that they don’t want or need? Many ads, desktop or mobile, can be highly intrusive and disrupt our web experience. When was the last time you were asked to turn off your ad blocker or to get spooked by a video ad that automatically plays with audio on when you were reading an article? As a consumer, I personally would want to avoid either scenarios if I have the option. Wouldn’t you?

As ad blockers become more sophisticated and as consumers become more resistant to sponsored content, what will your brand do then?

This is why I advise brands to create content that their customers actually want and need. Marketers need to stop selling in the content they create, and instead focus on helping consumers solve their biggest problems and building long-term relationships with them so they become your brand’s biggest fans and advocates.

To stand out from all the noise out there and win people’s attention, you need to create content that is relevant and adds value to your target audience, to truly be able to reach, engage and ultimately convert them into customers.

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customers for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help. Or follow me on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and if you like what you see, Subscribe here for regular updates.

Photo Source

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.