This post originally appeared on the Advertising Week Social Club blog. If you aren’t familiar with those guys, check ‘em out.
Since the Digital Explosion launched Marketing 2.0, great debates have arisen over which agency should be responsible for what type of execution.
Is it the straightforward ad agency? The news/media-focused public relations agency? Maybe even the “new digital” social media-based agency?
Because we’ve moved beyond what these shops can legitimately claim to be experts at based on their current makeup, thinking and abilities. Today, there is only one type of agency that matters:
The agency capable of making CULTURALLY RELEVANT CONTENT.
30-second TV spots that people buzz through while using TiVo are not culturally relevant content. Neither are your 15-second YouTube pre-rolls – the ones that I don’t see because I’m focused on the countdown clock until I can skip them entirely; or your press releases or, more than likely, your recent Facebook status updates or your last 15 tweets.
These are all forms of content – but chances are they have been ignored, missed or otherwise switched off by the people you are trying to reach.
Because your message was living within its own hermetically-sealed ecosystem. A world where your brand or product lives in isolation, devoid of any cultural markers that would let a person know they exist in the real world.
Because you’ve decided that people are sitting at home, thinking in silos, waiting specifically and only for a solution to a problem that your brand can solve.
A recent Ad Age/Bluefin Labs report shows that for consumers, commercials are just really, really short shows. They talk about them with the same amount of interest as the network programming. If that’s the case, then shouldn’t marketers be using a wide variety of channels (broadcast yes, but also mobile, online, live event, etc.) to create content that people want to talk about and engage with? Content that is culturally relevant and that acknowledges both the consumer and the world at large?
Of course they should.
But it’s not something that they (or their agencies) are used to doing – and it’s not necessarily easy to do.
Brands and agencies tend to think in terms of discreet campaigns, and often brands have to deal with restrictions enforced by legal departments. That often means that agencies are required to create pre-programmed content – that is approved by legal – before it can be pushed to social networks.
You know how, before you go to a backyard BBQ at your friend’s house, you take out an index card and write out four or five conversation topics that you can use?
Neither do I – because no one does that.
If you’ve “scheduled” content in advance, what happens when news breaks, or the conversation changes? If everyone is talking about the latest meme to fly around and you’re still pushing your amazing new razzleberry-flavored frozen yogurt, you’re going to be ignored. Content marketing fails when companies try to bend it to their will (and needs) rather than participating in the conversation that consumers want to have.
Being culturally relevant means having a point of view, a unique voice and being quick enough to be where the action is before everybody else gets there.
This takes a type of thinking that most traditional client-agency relationships aren’t currently set up to handle. But the time is coming when brands that don’t take this approach will be pushed aside by consumers who will be more interested in engaging with brands who act more like consumers themselves.