Archive for the ‘agency’ Category

Content Adds Life (even in a downturn)

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Coke campaign

Coca-Cola Advertising

It has been well documented that great brands do not necessarily contract spending in an economic downturn and that the brands which seize the opportunity and continue to invest tend to ride through unscathed. As a result of this they create an ever-more powerful brand (one that is turned to in troubled times) and which is valued even more when the economy bounces back.  
Where will marketers choose to spend their marketing budgets in 2012 and beyond?
With the squeeze well and truly upon UK and European businesses and even the most esteemed economists unable to predict our economic fate in 2012, how will this influence marketing spend? Overlay this with a real shift in investment from paid to own and earned media properties and 2012 could be caught in a crossfire of step-change in marketing investment, in which the strong and brave rise triumphantly (potentially Coca-Cola and Unilever brands) and the weak and fearful fall apart.  
Will investment in CONTENT shine through in 2012?
My burning question is: Will marketers finally soften financial controllers who demand hard ROI metrics against all marketing activity? In my opinion, the true value of investment in content (or content curation) within the marketing mix cannot be understated, but it is still a tricky investment in terms of clear definable metrics.
Connecting with a time-poor, on-the-move consumer
Consumers are flooded or, in most cases, bamboozled (I love that word) with stuff (advice, information, gimmicks, offers, etc) and it is all competing for our time and attention (of which we have increasingly less of). Juggling this alongside life’s challenges is tough going – and who has the time to wade though it all these days?  
Relationships will matter
Brands that are able to provide us with a solution (and not simply a product), a positive desired experience, to filter out the clutter and complexities in our world, and provide us with solutions to any one of life’s problems (whether it be “what on earth am l going to cook tonight” or “what can I do to entertain myself?”) will be welcomed into our busy lives – delivering a deeper connection and in doing this will achieve a greater sense of ‘social capital’ for that brand. (Social capital is a central idea that “social networks are a valuable asset” and interaction enables people to build communities, to commit themselves to each other – see
Content Curation and Customer Experience will reign supreme
The best example to highlight here is Coca-Cola’s marketing mission statement, Content 2020, developed by Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, VP Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence. Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 strategy clearly demonstrates this leading global brand’s marketing future rests on the ideals of content marketing. A lovely strap – Moving from Creative Excellence to Content Excellence.

This investment is linked to three key drivers:
1- The need to double the size of the business
2- Accepting the wider distribution of creativity (crowd-sourcing creativity)
3- Understanding the distribution of technology – the on-demand society and forging important relationships with tech companies (such as Google).
Most importantly, it recognises the power of storytelling.
I urge every marketer to watch both of their videos:
Coca-Cola’s strategic vision

Coca-Cola’s definition of content


Coke Advertising


The only way is up!

December 15, 2011 1 comment

Marketing magazine Agency of the Year award, 2011.

Marketing magazine gives Seven the thumbs up-and boy are we proud of our achievements this year. Written by Nicola Clark, 13 December, 2011.



…The agency’s thriving consultancy business is credit to the depth of thinking delivered by chief executive Sean King and the team.

The judges picked out Seven’s focus on bringing quality content to digital channels. They detected a palpable excitement about the way in which digital and multimedia are transforming the industry to help Seven push the boundaries with its clients.

There is no doubt that, while some competitors have struggled to integrate digital into their offering, Seven is leading the field in migrating to earned-media platforms. The agency has also established itself as a hub of thought leadership in the industry; digital development director Mike Burgess regularly speaks at events.

Seven also scored highly on effectiveness, both in terms of generating direct sales and ‘return on engagement’. The judges heaped praise on Seven’s cross-platform work for Sainsbury’s, CIMA and New Look, among others, and the quality of its management and editorial teams.

The agency found time to scoop some important new-business wins, too, including McDonald’s, restaurant operator D&D London and Virgin Atlantic’s social travel site, V-travelled.

Messaging, Post-Advertising, Reward and the battle of Content

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Brands, as we all know, rely on the effective and creative delivery of messages. And clever, creative messages can indeed create real value, and furthermore, truly elevate and distinguish a brand. Clever messaging can also deepen a brands connection with its customers and, in return, deliver big financial rewards – beyond short-term sales.

So how is messaging and delivery changing?
We should all be aware of the debate surrounding the death of push marketing. This debate is also interlinked with “media creep”, or what I view as the new media zeitgeist – a shift from paid, to owned and earned.  This new marketing world order highly prizes the influence of the consumer, and furthermore recognises the power of the individual. This “post-push” era is firmly upon us – how it evolves remains to be seen, but social media platforms are truly empowering the individual. What is present now, however, is how business-critical it is for brands to learn to play ball within this context, more specifically how a brand can effectively (and creatively deliver) messages to a customer to truly delight and cause a rewarding reaction.

What are brands competing for?
Brands, I believe, are now competing for a much bigger, and arguably more intrinsic prize, when it comes to a return on their marketing investments – it’s more than recall, it’s more than an individual campaign’s hard ROI (i.e. real pounds and pennies) – it’s in the value of real customer engagement. Successful brands (like global giant Vodafone, for example) are taking note of  highly prized soft measurables (and what are often referred to as “nice to have” measures), such as the Net Promoter Score (how likely are you to recommend us?). These qualitative values (a measure of warmth and receptiveness to a brand) are now becoming critical short, medium and long-term signposts and, in many cases, are valued as much as or more than unachievable large-scale mass broadcasting deliverables.

Delivering engagement via content.
Going beyond the debate over the death of the so-called advertising model and percolating up to a boiling point, is now the subject of content. Brands are now recognising content has a strategic place within the marketing mix. Why is this? Because content (via magazines, blogs, apps, online or gaming, for instance) has the power to leverage consumers, to create an emotive and physical action and ultimately (ideally) make them feel good about a brand.

Happy customers deliver good deeds.
Content is a means to customer engagement and customer engagement unquestionably drives a brand’s market position. We all know that engaged customers are happy customers, and happy customers spend (more than unhappy ones), it’s simple logic. Furthermore, a certain tier of really happy customers will go on to spread good cheer – they bring other customers to you and, if you are lucky, even eulogise your brand. Happy customers thereby help grow your business.

Brands who reap rewards from content
Not surprisingly, as a result of the shifting balance from bought, owned, earned media landscape and the importance of “tickling” customers to “delight” them, the agency world is now becoming obsessed by content.  Fueling this fever pitch, or scrum frenzy, is indeed the result of marketers reassessing spend and redirecting it to such areas as social media and content strategies. Brands (like ASOS) are critically gearing themselves to excite, motivate and “woo” customers – ultimately, to spend more with them than with their competitors.  But lets not forget there is an exciting bi-product of such an investment – a lucrative own media channel.

Let the battle commence!
PR, publishing agencies, newsstand publishers, digital agencies and big advertising agencies are redefining themselves to deliver content, because it now represents the emerging critical mass (in terms of briefs). Whether the value is there (in monetary terms) remains to be seen.

But who are the experts to deliver great content?
Well there is no simple answer to that question and to an extent it will depend on the brief, brand, sector and appropriate channels. But as a large-scale, multi-platform content specialist, I will always say it is agencies like  us (the agency finely tuned and resourced to deliver it), an agency that also has that editorial and marketing excellence as its core offer, but is platform-neutral.

So my point about all of this is – great content enables a brand to really get in with its customers. Having championed the value of content for more than 10 years in agency world, it is very pleasing to be working not as the poor cousin of agencies, but as a critical partner. We create content that customers want, value, enjoy and use. It is also very pleasing to witness an industry-wide recognition of content and as a key segment of the marketing mix. If planned well, content can prove incredibly powerful and influential to a brand.

Follow me @AgencyBelle

Content Curators – The Big Debate!

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

There has been much debate lately about who is best placed to deliver effective content (from a brand’s voice to a customer base), and also what comprises good content. What I will say about this is – content should be well considered (strategically led), well crafted (experts in that field) and effectively executed (via the right media channels). How it works for one brand or sector over another will vary.

Consumers are now being hit by a wide range of content (not simply delivered from a brand). It is being delivered from both free and paid sources, and from highly authoritative and expert curators or publishers as well as social and anecdotal commentators and individuals. It is one great big melting pot out there – more so in the online and mobile world.

In this pot, commercial (sales-led) content can jostle alongside credible or specialist and highly authoritative and creative sources. Possibly the worst thing a brand could do is blur any one of these boundaries, or distinctions, or simply cut corners. Great content is indeed well curated, well balanced and well considered, but fundamentally it also values the importance of our individual needs, and right of access and refusal to participate.

Let the content battle commence! So, what comes after a tectonic, techno-media shift? A battle for the middle ground. By middle ground, I mean the zone firmly wedged between above-the-line advertising campaigns, and through-the-line promotional activity – it’s that lovely “sweet spot” that branded content occupies – or does it? I’m sure there will be debate around this.

This critical middle ground is becoming the big battle zone for marketers (and agencies, for that matter). It’s a zone, or space, that customers feel really ok with engaging in. Why is this? Because, in that zone, you get a whole lot of great stuff going on – including branded content. 

It’s all about WIFM! 
I will always argue that the success of branded content relies squarely on the concept of WIFM – What’s In it For Me? If a brand is willing to give me something and it’s something I can benefit from, enjoy or share, then I am more than receptive to it. Of course, the assumption is that whatever the product is (magazine, site, app, for example), it is a product that has value, expertise and authority and is meaningfully aligned or connected to the brand (giving it to me). I’ll leave the debate on authority and authenticity for another day.

One important ground rule to highlight, however, is that customers are made clear about the commercial context of any branded content – that the selling is well defined, and the informative or entertainment value is well meaning and makes sense when coming from that brand (or its association). Sometimes the commercial and entertainment value combine seamlessly, like an exciting architectural fusion, but mostly they better exist in distinction.

So, what is the secret to creating the best content or, even better, where to start when considering your content strategy? Well, now, that would be telling. But if you do want to speak to an expert, give me a shout @AgencyBelle. I will be more than happy to help out 😉 

In the meantime, here are few starting points.

1. Know your customers.

2. Think about the kind of content you would meaningfully align or want associated to your brand.

3. Think about how you want your customers to interact with your content.

* Be educated or informed

* Be entertained

* Play with it

* Share it

* Be inspired by it

4. Consider the content mix:

* Magazines

* Advertorials

* Videos

* Blogs

* Pod & Vodcasts

* Guides

* Case studies

* eBooks

* Interactive games

* Mobile content & apps

* Microsites

* Webinars

* Social content

* Research and surveys

* Infographics

* White papers

* Newsletters (electronic and print)

5. And check out my blog – Does your brand need a content MOT here:

6. This is also a great blog on 3 key pillars to successful content:

How to generate great intellectual and creative combustion…

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I was involved in a pitch very recently, in fact I get involved in them a lot – it’s part of my job. I have the often, unenviable role of New Business, but i do love it.

We have recently been doing a lot of soul-searching as an agency.  By this I mean, we have been trying to get to the bottom of how we can win more business.  It’s tough out there.  We are a great agency, no questions there and we have an enviable track-record.  However, we have been asking ourselves some important, strategic questions like: How do we ensure we maintain our new business conversion rates? We had a great year last year, but times are tough, and the creative battleground is intense.

Lots of people talk about the importance of chemistry in a pitch situation. Lots of big agencies produce great tombs on what they think is the secret formula to winning new business.  I’ve read several of them lately.  Many talk about the importance of the team, the emotional connection you need to establish with your client, the importance of gaining power leading up to the pitch, the story-telling and so on.  These are agencies who know their stuff – they land big expensive briefs.

So, after much review and introspection, we have adopted a new formula to winning new business. It’s in its early days, but it seems to be a good approach.  Mind you we have only trialed it once.

So, what is the secret of this new formula? Well it’s not a radical one.  Sure there are some really practical things we have implemented, much of which is taken from books already written, so it’s not ground-breaking stuff. For me the secret is all about the team.

On this point, I was reading a lovely blog by MSCO today.  Here is an extract from it:

“One of the great paradoxes of life is that one gains enormous strength, security and independence by learning to be alone. If you need no one, then you are free to carefully and meticulously select those you want to surround yourself with. What’s more, you will hug but never cling.

On the other hand, if we are fortunate enough to be part of a human unit, a collaboration, that is greater than the sum of its parts, we can generate the kind of intellectual and creative combustion that is often the by-product of two or more dissimilar people seeking to achieve something far bigger than themselves.

In the end, whichever route we take, the goal is — in one way or another– to turn on the world. It is and always has been, the true signature of greatness.”

Read the full blog here

The last pitch we did (and we won it I must add), it was just last month, we had some awesome ‘intellectual and creative combustion’ going on. Why? Because, we really joined up as a team.  We also had no ego’s in the room.  Well, we did, but they were always parked at the door (and when we met) we all joined up as one big ego.  We also established a great team chemistry (from the outset), and importantly discussed and shared our immediate sense of victory (from the outset), we also rallied one another to get the best end result. We regularly challenged things, in a constructive way and we respected each others input.

As a result, we came up with an awesome idea for this global giant. This idea actually knocked their socks off – we even got a round of applause at the end of our pitch presentation.  I’ve been doing this for many years, and to this day, I have never had a client clap, let alone 7 of them!

What this experience told me is that we are certainly more powerful as a joined up entity, and one that is respectful and collaborative, and even nurturing of the other.  Pitches that are formed and created by a team of individuals jostling for the limelight do not perform well.  I have seen this in action.

If I could bottle that magical chemistry next time round, I know we’d be a guaranteed front-runner, and every time!

iPad apps take flight

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

There has been so much talk about the impact of the iPad – this week I was particularly impressed by the story about United Airlines and Apple deploying 11,000 iPads for its United & Continental pilots. From

“The paperless flight deck represents the next generation of flying,” said Captain Fred Abbott, United’s senior vice president of flight operations, in a press release.

Another impressive app story?

PROJECT magazine, created by leading content agency, Seven,  in partnership with Virgin.

If you have not yet downloaded a copy, go and check any one of the 10 issues out here:

What is so impressive about this app?

PROJECT magazine for the iPad – was the first international native iPad magazine.  It was created by London-based agency, Seven in partnership with Virgin and was launched by Sir Richard Branson himself in New York on 30 November 2010.

Some stats about PROJECT:

  • Within two days of launch, the ground-breaking magazine was No.1 in the App Store globally.
  • At the launch of the iPad 2 in San Francisco, PROJECT was spotted pre-loaded on to all of Apple’s new devices to showcase their capability.
  • The app titled PROJECT is now downloaded in 18 countries and has been voted one of the best iPad apps, including Apple themselves with numerous featured lisitngs in the App store.
  • Creating a global impact, in the previous 10 months PROJECT has won over much praise from Apple, industry experts, bloggers, fans and top advertisers worldwide.
  • For the 1st issue of Project, Seven secured advertising with brands including: Ford, Amex, Lexus, Kronenbourg 1664 and Panasonic.
  • PROJECT magazine has already scored a 14/15 rating and is in the top 1% of apps in iMonitor’s Best Publication Apps evaluation, on a par with major publications the Sunday Times and USA Today.
  • The McPheters & Company’s iMonitor service provides a detailed evaluation and global tracking of 1,600-plus media-related iPad apps from more than 50 countries. The list represents the best of breed, featuring apps that score in the top 2% of all apps that have been evaluated by iMonitor in the past year.*
  • Issue 5 of PROJECT, saw the launch of the world’s first ever gyroscope iPad magazine coverusing the latest gyro hardware to control HTML5 canvas objects. The result was a magazine front-cover packed full of the latest movie characters that readers can explore by moving their iPad
    around them.
  • Issue 6 saw three publishing world exclusives with the first ever 3D gesture-controlled magazine art gallery that took inspiration from the Snow Stack CSS visual effects demo. The unique gallery used WebKit’s 3D CSS transforms to render a wall that changes perspective as you move
    along it.
  • Issue 6 also innovatively featured an entire album’s worth of music in a retro boombox. Created using HTML5 audio tags, the interactive music player works using a drag and drop JavaScript functionality.
  • The fashion pages featured an incredible 360-degree view of this summer’s outfits on a revolving clothes stand, which takes magazine fashion pages to a new level, created using a video shot of the rotating clothes stand, converted into multiple images and resulting in a 360-degree view when swiping.
  • Seven produced a revolutionary design and navigation refresh for issue 7.If you are excited about iPads like me, and want to know more about how the platform might drive improvements to your current content or communications strategy – get in contact with me via  or @AgencyBelle

Media fragmentation, owned and earned, what’s it all about Mrs?

June 7, 2011 2 comments

I’m totally immersed in this topic right now.  But what prompted me to get on my ‘Blog box’ today was a recent conversation I had with a very capable and aspiring account executive at our agency.  She was asking some great questions, so I thought I would share these with you.

Perhaps she had taken some good advice from a blog on “how to climb the corporate ladder in 2.2 seconds”. You know, the type of advice: Make sure you always carry paper around; be the best tea-maker (I read that somewhere lately); ask regular, strategic and intelligent questions; offer to buy me lunch – OK, just kidding on that one.

She said to me: Tell me about owned, earned and bought media and why is this becoming the hot topic for marketers? And what is media fragmentation? She didn’t stop there! And tell me, why do brands need a content strategy?  And finally what is the difference between a publishing and content agency?

Wow! The questions, they were good ones, so she marks highly on strategic this week

Let’s work through a couple of these.  But what would be great, and much more ‘PPM’ (post, post modern), is for me to open it out to you all.  But I am happy to kick off with a couple of responses.

Q1 Tell me about owned, earned and bought media and why is this becoming the hot topic for marketers? 

Owned media: As I understand it, owned media is simply media that a brand owns. It is usually a website, a customer magazine, an app, a TV channel, social media pages etc.

Earned media: Is simple too, and refers to the publicity gained through editorial influence. Earned media might include mass media channels such as TV, but more regularly: press (including newspapers and magazines), radio and, of course,  the web, including community forums, social media etc. It includes, generally, any commentary about a brand, such as editorial commentary, and things like letters to an editor, features that include the brand as a case study and even extend to inclusions in polls, for example.

Bought Is simply media channels that a brand pays to be in – again TV, news press, magazines, the web, outdoor, experiential and again can include social.

Why is it becoming such a hot topic? Well, there are several reasons for this, but mostly I would say this due is to the rapid growth in new media channels and TV fragmentation. Marketeers now need to get to grips with how to communicate over so many more channels, and this can be costly. The other main reason is more brands are becoming serious media owners in their own right – a couple of examples include: Net a Porter’s iPad app, P&G’s and Virgin’s Project magazine.  Owned can also include brand-managed Facebook pages, You Tube sites as well as TV channels, for instance Audi TV  and long-standing brands on TV: Thomas Cook and Visit Britain.

Q2 What is media fragmentation?
Now this is where it starts to become more interesting. How do I explain this one?  To me, this is the hot topic right now.

So I started with “back in the olden days”(suddenly I could see account executive’s eyes glaze over).  OK, well, before social media, (eyes came back into focus) brands had a fairly simple approach to pushing out their messages to us as consumers. Brands engaged a DM agency, an advertising agency, a PR agency and, most significantly, gave their media agency larges sums of funds to book media – and over very few marketing channels.  Media was bought on a brand’s behalf, and creative was essentially delivered from a brand outwards.  Nowadays, the media landscape is far more complex and often described as ”fragmented”. All this means is: more channels, more routes to a consumer, more choices for a consumer and essentially less critical mass.

Fragmentation has not escaped the agency world either – specialist agencies have now popped up and include disciplines like digital agencies (a plethora of varieties in this category), social media agencies (such as social media monitoring, content and engagement and also optimizers and, of course, pure consultants).

I also told account executive that the most interesting thing in all of this is how consumers now have the power to control how marketing messages are sent and to where. As consumers (enabled by technology) we are being far more particular about how we want to be communicated to, and are seeking more personalised content, and products for that matter.

We want brands to know what we like to know about and not be bothered by irrelevant information.  We expect to be spoken to as individuals, not en masse.  I had to then stop myself going into a parallel discussion about the increase in product customization.  (Did you know that Fiat is marketing their new Fiat 500 in 500,000 customizable options?) Sorry, but I just love those little cars.

We also gather information via search engines, which “optimize content for us”.  Online, as well as by word of mouth (WOM), we choose and recommend great restaurants, offers, travel destinations etc  to others (“right,” she says). So as consumers we now have a great deal of influencing power.  Brands want to get engaged with this influence.

Technology has definitely created this media fragmentation “revolution”, specifically technologies like Sky+  and, soon to be launched in the UK, Virgin’s Tevo, which gives us the freedom to watch what we like when we like. This is just one example of TV’s media fragmentation (notwithstanding the increase in channels alone).  And then there is the world of Facebook, You Tube and Twitter, and it just gets bigger and bigger.

All this presents a significant challenge in terms of how a brand find its customers on a mass scale and then transmits a message for the benefit of the brand.

Q3 Why do brands need a content strategy?
This is what we do. Hence the question. The answer is simple.

OK, so we have already spoken about how brands are becoming media owners – with this inevitably comes investment in content. In order to best maximise a brand’s content, it needs strategic content  strategy. This will ensure a brand has a planned and sustained approach to the commissioning, 
creation, distribution and management of content across multiple platforms, (including paid, 
owned and earned media channels), and  that it fundamentally links up with the brand’s core marketing and business objectives.  What a content strategy will also do is ensure consistently high editorial and creative quality, which fundamentally drives a coherent consumer experience.

Q4 What is the difference between a publishing and content agency?

A content agency is most importantly media neutral and should have editorial excellence at the core of its very being – that, coupled with strategic insights, provides the winning formula, and a core distinction from simply an agency that publishes magazines and builds websites.


For more on this topic see:

All Broken Up About Media Fragmentation?

Explain the term ‘media fragmentation’ and discuss the implications for a new Product trying to enter the market.