As an industry, we have a problem with labels. Not the sticky paper ones, but the ones we use to describe what we do.
One label we use is "content marketing". Anything called "content marketing" is great, leading-edge, measurable (just about) and effective. Anything that carries the label "advertising", on the other hand, is understood to be ineffective, unaccountable, and hopelessly out of date.
The truth is we’ve been doing both for years and will continue to do so.
So it makes me angry to read about how you shouldn't spend your marketing budget on traditional advertising, and instead pump it all into content marketing. The king is dead; long live the king.
As someone who comes from a media heavy background – I've worked in a planning/buying capacity and media sales side – I don't believe that this directive is entirely beneficial to all it's aimed at, especially as I’m often tasked with buying both. Contrary to popular belief, I know the difference. I know their pros, and I know their cons.
Of course, everyone has their own agenda, and usually a product to sell, and all of these types of columns tell you repeatedly that content must be used to "build" and "engage" on a longer-term basis with prospects and customers, creating "meaningful relationships", and allowing you to tell some of your "brand stories" – and they aren't wrong.
But does everything need to be qualified as "content marketing". These Super Bowl ads that you've watched? That's advertising. Putting it on a YouTube channel doesn't suddenly make it a great piece of content marketing, it's still an advertisement. That supporting website? It's a great, integrated marketing campaign.
I think this demonstrates two things. Firstly, that all this labeling of collateral as either "content" or "advertising" (as just two examples) – and pretending that one is far better than the other, without acknowledging that everything has its time and place – is misleading and counter-productive. Advertising can be great at driving phenomenal results, and not just because it links through to an awesome infographic.
Secondly, and in my opinion more importantly, this labelling ignores the fact that what it all really comes down to is great creative and relevant messaging being in the right place at the right time, whatever you want to call it.
At Base One, we plan and buy a small amount of media campaigns for our clients. Sometimes, we work with partners – for example Slashdot – that guarantee us leads in return for some fantastic, original content but we also utilise – amongst other formats – the good, old-fashioned online display ad, the solus email campaign, even the occasional radio spot. With strict targeting these can all boost response (particularly when re-marketing does its magic), raise awareness of the client's own website, and provide us with a broader reach.
We have always done content, and we are still doing advertising. There's a lot of work about crafting great content being written at the moment, how it must be creative and original – and the same goes with your advertisements. That's the only way to capture your audience’s attention and engage with them. So let’s spend our time making it all brilliantly original and creative, instead of arguing about what’s cool and what’s not. Because that’s not cool.