Cause and effect of the social and mobile age– how the worlds of brands, agencies, publishers and tech companies are being turned upside down.


Whichever side of the marketing fence you sit on — brand, agency, publisher, producer or tech company — the rise of social and mobile against a backdrop of ad industry turmoil is causing a major paradigm shift…


Content marketing is cannibalising advertising

Advertising is becoming blunter in a user empowered landscape of ad blocking and skipping where people have more control of what they see. It’s become evident to brands they cannot cut through in the places that now matter most – social and mobile – without delivering content their audience doesn’t want to filter out.

The upshot is brands have undertaken major budget reallocation from advertising to content marketing in the last 5 years (Forrester Research).

The gap between the content “haves” and “have nots” is widening

With content becoming a more and more important commodity for brands, the conversation has shifted from “Should we do it?” to “How can we do it better?”

Key to their success is not just understanding which topicality resonates with their audiences but also investing sufficiently in the right formats.

And for brands in the social age, video (in its various forms) is the format that matters most. 2015 has been described as “the year of video marketing”, and with good reason. Video consumption exploded. The time adults spend watching digital video each day increased to one hour and 16 minutes in 2015 (up from just 21 minutes in 2011). The growth continues; it’s predicted 69% of all consumer internet traffic will be video by 2017. Brands without sufficient video are no longer being heard.

Or discovered for that matter. Not only is social exerting greater influence on SEO than ever before, but more broadly the internet’s key channels are over time evolving into visual mediums which reject non-visual “filler”. That’s certainly the case for Google, which recently started including video based advertisements in search in favour of text based ads.

The gap between the content rich and poor is already obvious, and will inevitably continue to widen over time as the content poor struggle to be seen or heard on the visual web.

The age of “brands as publishers” has become a reality — and internalization of production is rife

Brands recognizing the wide ranging value of content are responding by building the infrastructure to unlock it — in the form of content studios
 or “newsrooms”.

The vision of “brands as publishers” once seemed abstract and futuristic, yet newsrooms are now a staple part of businesses. Brands’ in house teams are producing quality video, live broadcasts, magazine style editorial, imagery and in some cases even music and print magazines.

The age of publisher brands is truly upon us and brands are upscaling their internal content operations across the board. Production work they once outsourced to third parties (most notably agencies) is now being executed in house. This has had a profound effect on the supplier landscape.

It’s Agencies Vs Publishers Vs Influencers… as “Darwinism” spawns a new marketing ecosystem

With brands internalising more creation, their content suppliers have had to evolve to survive. The result has been a fast growth of (and change in) offers and specialisms.

With less “day-to-day” BAU work on offer due to internalization, agencies are reshaping their propositions. Social agencies have repositioned to become “Content marketing” agencies — offering a more complex and technical mix of skillsets spanning spanning creation, data, media, activation and strategy. But it’s not just “ex” social agencies in the mix. Agencies of a wide range of other backgrounds have converged on the digital content space too, not just the likely candidates of creative, media and PR agencies, but also SEO, production, CRM and even design and web dev agencies. It’s a crowded space of many specialisms.

In addition the fast growing ecosystem includes ever more players with little or no marketing DNA, most notably publishers and influencers. Publishers in particular are making a significant play for the branded content space because it represents their biggest revenue opportunity. Buzzfeed for example, have entirely eschewed onsite advertising in favour of branded content. Whether or not their content is your cup of tea, the business model is proven.

All major UK publishers now have branded content divisions — and they are routinely being pitted against agencies in pitches.

The appeal of publishers and influencers to brands is understandable. They are naturally adept content creators and have large engaged audiences, many of which are revered and notoriously hard to reach.

However the models for working with such a range of talent can be very varied — and bear different strategic implications for brands. Not least the dilemma of the extent to which brands should invest in “borrowing” audiences of publishers or influencers versus building their own platforms.

Technology has made an industry of “Content marketing” — now all eyes are on how tech will shape the marketing ecosystem of the future

Content marketing may be nothing new but it’s become an industry in it’s own right in the past decade. A “social marketing” age has evolved to become a “content marketing” age, a difference that is more than just semantic.

Where social marketing was built on gumption and belief; content marketing requires data and media infrastructure and expertise. Practitioners who cannot deliver the distribution, measurement and optimisation smarts are now struggling to get meaningful work.

The increased level of investment demonstrates that content marketing has finally earned credibility with director level execs in recent years. While improved human understanding has been a factor in the attitudinal shift, the main catalyst has been technology, which has enabled content marketing to become a truly technical practice with data at its heart.

The range of tech options on offer is vast and growing at a rate almost beyond belief. One leading industry commentator, Scott Brinker, found that the number of available tools hit a tipping point between 2014 and 2015, almost doubling over the course of the year.

The value and potential of tech is undeniable. But agencies and publishers are wary of its potential impact. To certain parts of the ecosystem — especially those more technical and less creative — tech represents a threat as well as an opportunity.

Wary non-tech players are remoulding their offers to become more bespoke and specialist, more human, steering away from the manual work that tech can grab.

Man is learning to live with machine because the potential role tech can play is too important to ignore. Marketers are now building their tech tool kit informed by their digital strategies — but also, crucially, vice versa. In a noisy and competitive space, the right tech can give them an all important competitive edge. But the increasingly bloated market means finding the relevant best in breed solution to the marketer’s challenges can be challenging.


PopBrief offers specialist and bespoke advice, hands-on help, connects briefs and enables the key players in the ecosystem to leverage each other’s talent, platforms, audiences and scale.

To find our more, email chris@popbrief.co.uk or call us on 07758 946 968.

Popbrief’s senior team

Chris Illman, founding partner

Chris is a former strategist and business director with almost a decade of experience at leading social and content agencies on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chris’ background is in journalism but he transitioned to social agency 1000heads in 2007 as social media came to prominence. It was there that he was seconded to New York to help oversee the company’s US expansion.

After returning to the UK for freelance stints at SapientNitro and Havas helia, he joined AllTogetherNow (formerly The Social Practice) to help their transition from social agency to content marketing agency. Core to the role was helping define the agency proposition and developing key accounts.

Over the years, Chris has worked with a wide range of national and global brands including Skype, PUMA, Dove, Nokia, Virgin Money and Adidas.

Paul Kingsley, founding partner

Paul has a huge breath of digital expertise accumulated in a career spanning more than twenty years in almost as many countries.

Paul started his career in management consultancy, qualifying as an accountant before moving to Coca-Cola & Schweppes and then United Distillers where he worked in commercial finance roles managing sales & marketing, mergers & acquisitions and NPD.

He then ventured into advertising, starting at the Tequila network before taking the reigns at at Oyster Partners (now part of Digitas LBi), Omnicom’s first digital investment in Europe. Paul has since held management positions in leading digital, experiential and creative agencies, working with global brands including BT, Epson, PUMA, Nokia, Sony Mobile and P&G.

Whilst setting up Popbrief, Paul is currently COO of a portfolio of leading digital, data and creative agencies and continues to provide specialist M&A advisory to both the marketing services and Internet & technology sectors.

Contact us

email: chris@popbrief.co.uk / paul@popbrief.co.uk

phone: 07758 946 968

twitter: @PopBriefCo

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