Are content shops taking over ad agencies?

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Joe Pulizzi has the answer
By Caroline Faucher, contributor. 16 February, 2017
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We asked the Content Marketing Institute's Joe Pulizzi to weigh in on the increasingly blurred lines between content marketing and advertising agencies.

The growing demand for quality content has led to a boom in the number of specialised studios and agencies dedicated to this form of marketing. This is creating fierce competition for traditional advertising agencies as they try to adapt to the rapidly evolving digital media environment – and compete for a piece of an increasingly fragmented pie.

As Content Marketing Institute founder, Joe Pulizzi, sees it the shift in the way we consume media definitely represents a threat to ad agencies, which are being forced to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant. "Content agencies aren’t taking over, but traditional agencies are scrambling," he explains. "More and more traditional agencies are adding a content marketing component or are outright buying content marketing agencies. There is no doubt in my mind that a stand-alone traditional agency, without expertise in ongoing editorially-based content creation, won’t be able to make it in 10 years."

Change across the board

This is also true for ad agencies that have been working in the digital space. Ad blockers are becoming more popular with online consumers who, at the same time, are demanding more personalised, compelling content in order to remain loyal. Marketers have had to find increasingly innovative ways to communicate brand messages, which is one of the key reasons content has become an increasingly dominant marketing tool. "The power shift has moved from media companies and brands with big budgets to consumers," Pulizzi says. "Consumers can now ignore every piece of interruptive content we put in front of them. That means, in order for brands to break through, they need to deliver valuable, relevant and compelling information to customers. When done right, consumers begin to know, like and trust the brand, and we see behaviour changes."

"a stand-alone traditional agency, without expertise in ongoing editorially-based content creation, won’t be able to make it in 10 years"

Content and advertising hand in hand

But does that mean brands should only focus on content marketing? In spite of his status as something of a content evangelist, Pulizzi thinks not. "Innovative brands look at all approaches, including content marketing," he says, mentioning the fact Red Bull is one of the most successful examples of content marketing yet still advertises traditionally. "Content marketing is not a replacement for traditional methods."

The powers at American Express seem to agree. They still advertise their credit cards on billboards, on highways and in airports, but were was also an early adopter of content marketing. Their branded newsroom OPEN forum launched in 2007 and is considered a trusted source of information for businesses. Needless to say, it also doubles as a marketing strategy and represents a way for American Express to generate leads.

As a discipline, marketing is always reinventing itself with the advancement of technology. With print advertising spend on the decline, it’s clear traditional agencies have to keep up in order to survive. But dedicated content shops are not immune to change either. They have to follow what customers want right now and understand the challenges ahead if they want to stay afloat once the next big wave rolls in. An awkward 19-year-old is doubtless inventing it in his mother’s basement as we speak.

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Caroline is a Canadian-Australian writer and online communication strategist with over 10 years experience in media, not-for-profits and government. Now based in the seaside city of Newcastle, she enjoys the variety of topics a freelance life offers and the challenge of turning complex ideas into simple messages.