For good content, take the data-way, or go down the Dodo-way…

Sergio Brodsky responds to an op-ed we published yesterday by Tom Hyde which argued content marketing has lost its way and is no longer a creative endeavour. Brodsky counters that evidence-based problem solving is as necessary in content as anywhere.


Our industry’s pace of change is quite amazing. And, like any evolutionary process you either adapt or die. In the communications ecosystem, traditional advertising is the prime specimen to be analysed and understood before facing extinction. Like the Dodo, an extinct flightless bird, our ad campaigns are now struggling to elevate their brands to greater heights, drowning them into a deluge of commercial pollution. Why? It seems they’re afraid of data…

The idea of a ‘big idea’ is losing traction at a very fast pace. This kind of top-down prescriptive thinking is part of the problem. The search for the big idea suggests that the big person who thought of it has the solution and all it needs is rolling out. Although creative magic is as important as ever, what informs it is rapidly changing.

Maybe this could be due to our newfound ability to measure the effectiveness of such ideas versus the effectiveness of data-based platforms driving communications programmes. Often what is required is time and attention to detail. It requires being specific to people and their contexts. It requires a team effort bringing strategists, statisticians, social analysts and search specialists to combine, refine and transform their qualitative and quantitative findings into meaningful insights.

Consumers no longer need the veneer of a big idea to tell them what to buy, but data can inform when, where and how brands can be present and instead of just saying, actually doing by the delivery of something useful, inspiring, entertaining or informative; that is, content.

Content is indeed cheaper than advertising, just like bread and butter are cheaper than lobster and champagne. This is because content is destined for long-term ongoing conversations with a guaranteed ‘nutritious brand-value’, whereas advertising, with rare exceptions, comes with a limited ‘shelf-life’.

Moreover, as written by Campaign‘s UK editor Clare Beale ‘the too small, too low-budget, no awards podium beckoning at the end’ content briefs turn most creative agencies off. Whereas, in a media agency, answering a tough brief is what gets us excited. Creative agencies are in love with craft, content production houses will usually focus more on tactics of implementations whereas your media agency will have more affinity with problem solving supported by hard evidence.

Still, we are a little far from a perfect world. If media agencies can just collaborate better and more often with quality creative people (and there are plenty of them out there), and understand brand strategy, they will easily put a stake on the ground.

That said, if a definition is what lacks, this is what our media research informs content is:

  • Content is overtly about the consumer and covertly about the brand. Utility is not what your brand can offer but what the consumer wants it to offer,
  • data is the bedrock of good content, it informs what consumers search, browse and how they relate to one another. Therefore, data-led brands can rip profits by becoming the social glue linking consumers to their needs, peers and communities, and
  • creativity is still important when interpreting the data and translating it into meaningful topics that can contribute towards your digital branding, avoiding cyber-pollution of irrelevant stuff (stuff is not content) and enhancing your visibility by relevance not quantity, since Google’s algorithm uses quality as a filter for quantity.


On the other hand it is also important to define what content, not as a generic term but in the context of content marketing, is not to avoid misunderstandings and upsetting your clients. To name but a few examples:

  • Art is not content, although content can be artful. Hamlet was not conceived to satiate consumers’ thirst but to create new ones to the human spirit,
  • Van Damme’s ‘Epic Split’ is not content but an audiovisual commercial created by Swedish advertising agency Forsman & Bodenfors. Its unique narrative utilises a metaphor to communicate and sell a vehicle’s feature, Volvo’s Dynamic Steering. The fact it went viral is not exclusive to content but to its ability to arouse peak emotions, from awe to amusement, and
  • celebrity posts, tweets, etcetera, are not content when pushing sales messages either through an endorsed brand or their own personal brand. In this case, a Miley Cyrus twerking Twitpic is nothing more than the self-promotion of a tasteless personal brand (ie. you bought my nasty image, now buy my nasty music).


This is a fascinating time for those working in the strategic communications industry. We were never able to be so up close and personal to our audiences. However, our audiences have never wanted to be so far from us and we are the ones to blame due to how much we changed our [communications] environment. This distance represents the gap content can bridge. An evolutionary flight that Dodos would not be able to perform.


Editor’s note: This article is authored by an external contributor and the views expressed regarding Miley Cyrus’ nasty music are not necessarily shared by Marketing, officially.

Sérgio Brodsky
BY Sérgio Brodsky ON 10 December 2014
Sérgio Brodsky is an internationally experienced brand marketing professional having worked for some of the world's greatest strategic communications agencies. Sérgio is a proven thought-leader, speaking at industry events, lecturing and regularly being published worldwide. He is passionate about cities and culture and the role of brands and technology in society. Sérgio is multilingual and holds a BA in IP law and an MBA in global brand strategy and innovation. Follow him on Twitter: @brandKzar.