Meredith, which publishes titles including Better Home and Gardens and Family Circle, launched Meredith Xcelerated Marketing (MXM), a customer engagement agency. What differentiates MXM from other agencies?
MXM is different from a traditional agency because we sit inside a media company. This gives us a publisher’s perspective to our clients’ assignments and often provides deeper insights than an agency on its own can provide. Because we can leverage the insights, capabilities and resources of Meredith Corporation, we mesh several best practices from a more traditional agency model. We create deeply engaging content that is highly relevant and sharable, can live in virtually any channel and has the ability to cross channels.
How does Meredith’s background in content creation and publishing provide you with a unique view and expertise of how brands have moved to content marketing as an engagement tool?
We have been in the content marketing arena for 44 years. According to Harvard Business School’s Nieman Lab, “we practically invented the content marketing trade.” So, we understand what structures make sense, when content should be developed, when it should be curated or when it should be evergreen. Our content editors use authentic consumer insights to create engaging content-based experiences, and we do not mistake editors for copywriters in the agency world. What clients need more than ever is a way to leverage their owned and earned communities. To do this, they need better content-powered experiences on an ongoing basis, not on a one-off basis. This is what publishers do better than anybody.
Is content marketing just another buzzword? Or does it signify something else about what consumers want from brands?
Content marketing is not new. What is new are the proliferation of channels and screens that make the need for content more extreme. This is especially true when considering the ever-growing number of shared channels and the fact that mobility is the new norm. Content that engages must address this rapidly evolving paradigm. When content jumps the tracks and can be summoned and even manipulated on demand by consumers, then it’s “big."
Research-backed campaigns and data analytics is a core service of MXM. How has this changed the world of content creation, distribution and management?
Data analytics and content management are a potent combination. To bring out this potency, our analytics team and content team sit next to each other. Our analytics process informs our content strategies, tactics and distribution plans. Through this, we understand which content is delivering the most engagement and the highest ROI.
Is “Big Content” the next iteration of “Big Data” for marketers in the content-creation space?
Everyone in marketing is talking about big data, but big data doesn’t appear spontaneously. It’s an interesting and important topic; however, not enough attention is being given to what generates big data — which is big content or content that is no longer controlled solely by the brand, but is amplified, iterated and disseminated by consumers across multiple channels, devices and platforms. Consumers engage and interact digitally with content, and marketers track and collect and make sense of those activities. Big data isn’t just a function of better data-tracking technology; it simply wouldn’t exist without the ever-expanding catalyst that is big content. Insights from big data should be helping brands create more and better big content.
Publishers and advertisers have struggled to adjust to digital distribution. How can advertisers and publishers work together to make online advertising more than just an eyesore?
The best advertising is remembered, and the best direct marketing is most relevant. Online advertising will improve as it becomes more memorable and relevant. As we move into an increasingly consumer-controlled “pull” media world, this will only become more important. If the consumer is king, then content is the coin of the realm, and it is relevancy and engagement that give it enduring value. Delivering on this in our hyperconnected world will require a rethink of how we create content. An early hint of this is the evolution of the consumer engagement agency.
What trends in marketing/advertising do you find most interesting/exciting?
The most interesting trend is the way that the advertising agency landscape is being de-constructed — a fundamental remodel is happening. It’s a fabulous time for a new ecosystem of agencies to emerge. I suspect there will be three types of agencies — specialists, integrators and in-house.
One reason you love what you do:
I’ve always been excited by the variety of the work; it’s the part of the job I love the most.
Brand building and direct marketing combined in one. It’s hard to do both well, but this Ameritrade work did it brilliantly.
I have had two mentors:Drayton Bird, the author of “Commonsense Direct Marketing” (probably a more important book than “Ogilvy on Advertising”), and Wendy Riches, who I have been able to work for and with throughout my career.
Steven Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers.” It’s the ultimate story on how to have each other’s backs.