Content Doesn’t Merge or Scale

By Tim Brunelle  |  August 2, 2013


Publicis and Omnicom, two of the world’s largest advertising agencies recently merged and have created a data-centric advertising network and content creation company. It seems that setting up “content” groups inside advertising agencies and PR firms has become the hot move of the week. Former agency creative director Tim Brunelle takes a good hard look at the trend and has some doubts about whether ad agencies really understand the essentials of content creation.

In the wake of the proposed Omnicom Publicis merger, it’s worth revisiting the premise of scale. Much is being made of this merger’s potential benefits around data and targeting; and the word “content” is frequently thrown into that context.

I believe the Omnicom Publicis deal is really only about merging for the sake of operational efficiencies (i.e. saving shareholders a projected $500M). The promise of a fresh or better approach to data is dubious at best, notes Alex Kantrowitz.

And so, too, is the idea of this merger scaling content. I don’t believe content can scale, certainly not as a product from what might become the world’s largest agency holding company.

Companies can scale. They open more stores, add more shifts, engage more customers. And in that sense, financial holding vehicles can definitely scale. All you need is cash, accountants and lawyers.

Products can scale. They come in new sizes, flavors and with different attributes.

Marketing ideas can scale. They influence print advertising, customer service and community manager protocols, as well as graphic design and user experience.

Content does not scale

How often do you need to be told your house is on fire? We hope once (one piece of content) will do the trick.

One well-crafted landing page can change the game.

One video from the CEO should be enough.

Merging two newspapers or magazines does not equal twice as many articles or pages. Typically, a merger of publications means less content.

The task of merging two websites is most often about identifying and removing overlaps in content.

The Omnicom Publicis merger will no doubt wring efficiencies from and increase value to the distribution of great and effective individual pieces of content. What it will not do is naturally create more content or even ‘better’ content for its clients.

Content doesn’t scale — but insights and your talent pool can

Better to scale the distribution of each content item, if your goal is broad awareness.

It’s likely your pool of existing content contains many gems. Check your analytics. Then why not consider a paid media plan to shine the spotlight on your existing top ten most viewed or shared pieces of content?

Better to scale insight, if your goal is a flurry of unique and powerful content.

As Jon Steel notes in his legendary book Truth Lies and Advertising, “If the creative brief is not itself creative… then its authors have no right to expect anything different.” Scale your investment in research and strategy to develop potent insights.

Better to scale your talent pool, if your goal is a reliable volume of content.

Content comes from people. Not from algorithms. Not from operational structures. Scaling the talent pool might be what’s implied by the Omnicom Publicis deal. Yet I will place my bets on there being less talent employed post-merger than before.

And that will mean a lower volume of content for their merged client list. But if your brand can link the value of content to business goals, it should be clear that more people making great content will equal more goals being achieved.

Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

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