Better the devil you know? Who does the CMO trust for content marketing in a digital world?

A personal perspective by Vijay Solanki Chief Digital Enablement Officer Southern Cross Austereo.


Not sure if Kylie knew the profound paradox of content marketing when she threw out this melody.  In the transition from campaign-led marketing to always-on content publishing, who does the CMO trust?  Internal team of specialists, roster agencies, specialist agencies or the publisher?

So, as you know, CMOs everywhere have spent the last 3-5 years making commercial sense of paid, owned & earned media.  My observation in Australia is that some agencies and therefore clients treat PR media value as earned value.

This is based on a simple premise that brands need to create a known measurable community.  This community is full of 3 groups of fans:

  • Brand super fans – those who will champion the brand and defend it; ideally they would have a strong influencer weighting and footprint – they are creating content & engaging with it
  • Brand lovers – those prepared to like a brand and engage with some content on owned media
  • Brand fans – those who like the brand but not enough to publicly defend it; more likely to be passive on owned media

The days of the traditional campaign are numbered simply due to their inefficiency.  Each campaign, you start from scratch.  High production and media costs for a one time hit is a bit like Sisyphus in Greek Mythology.  His punishment from the gods was to roll an immense boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down, repeating the action for eternity.

Build a community and you have a known group of fans that you can activate.  Then the question is how?

To engage these fans you need to make meaningful content.  The shift for brands is to move from being an advertiser through to being more like a publisher.

This means that you treat your owned channels exactly like a publisher would.  For example, you create content for Facebook on a daily basis.  You look closely at the data and you constantly modify content by day-part and by audience.  Content leads to engagement which should drive both brand metrics and link to commercial value.

Brand owners need to create this for themselves and have a team in place.  They need agency partners to help create masterpieces that have higher production values and require planning & expertise.  Equally, the real experts in content creation are the publishers because that is what they do every day.

That’s where you find the deep expertise in audio, video, mobile, native.  My advice to brands is to find the publishers that do that for themselves and you only have to look at the Nielson digital ratings then consider a new vendor model.  That is one where select publishers are essentially part of the core team.

The facts are that the lead agency usually knows the client best and can manage frameworks and process but publishers can bring the depth of content expertise that you rarely see in an agency.  This trifecta has to be powered by data.  The client needs to see behavioral data that shows exactly what is working and so the content programs are dynamic.  Think AB testing applied to the creative process.  Its agile, iterative and data driven but still coupled with creativity.

A model needs to be put in place to understand the impact of content on both brand metrics and commercial outcomes like advertising revenue and, of course, sales.

Companies like Qantas and Westpac look like they are already doing this working with Junkee Media.  This is an important move towards a more strategic relationship between brands and publishers.  A new model for the core team around the client.  Joining the dots between an always-on comms plan, good process and a smart content machine driven by data.

I guess the answer is around the partners you trust.  Both the devil you know and the ones you need to get to know.