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IPA Adaptathon blog: From Content to Diversification

By bringing together marketing decision-makers and agency chiefs, our aim is to develop an industry strategy for content development, IPA president Ian Priest discusses.

If there is one word that summed up last year it was 'content'. It was the hot topic at most conferences, and the whole topic at some; notably C21 and the CMA in November.

CMOs like Jonathan Mildenhall seized the opportunity to publish their content marketing strategies online, and agencies like Seven reframed their offer under the banner of being a specialist content marketing agency. Sainsbury's grabbed the headlines with their 45-minute ‘Christmas in a Day’ extravaganza generated from consumer content. The APA rebranded itself as the Content Marketing Association in direct competition to the BCMA.

After years of talking about it, in 2013, the concept of 'brands as publishers', in earned, owned and broadcast media, emerged into the mainstream. According to new research from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) 78% of UK marketers said they are producing more content that they did a year ago, with social media content highlighted as the content marketing tactic they use most frequently.

New territories

So what’s the opportunity for IPA member agencies this year in 2014 and how are they responding? Those agencies which ventured early into new territories 'beyond advertising' like PHD Drum, and MediaCom, are now beginning to reap the benefit. Those agencies which invested in production facilities, like JWT and Karmarama, are now well-equipped to provide clients with the facility for documentaries and informercials to extend and complement their advertising messages. Those agencies which experimented early with innovation and accelerators, like Vizeum, are now taking rich pickings.

As the products and services offered by agencies diversify, so do the skillsets of the talent employed. Many of the new content formats have more of an editorial than an advertising bias, and require the skills of a publishing or commissioning editor rather than an art director or copywriter or a commercials producer.

So it's interesting to see how the talent pool and networks of member agencies are changing; with new partnerships beyond the APA to PACT, and UKIE; and new hires from journalism and broadcast to populate social media newsrooms and branded content divisions. Now, over 140 of the 250 agencies in the IPA membership have people with technology or innovation in their job title. But it still feels like these additional services are a bit of a bolt-on rather than fully integrated into agencies’ creative output. And there is a still a question mark over how clients and agencies and guarantee a return from their investment in these areas.

Catalyst for discussion

Which is where the IPA Adapt agenda comes in. The Diversification strand is intended to act as a catalyst for discussion with clients and agencies about how we can work better together to integrate fully these new format and platform opportunities, and optimize their creative potential, and make them commercially viable.

By bringing together marketing decision-makers and agency chiefs, our aim is to develop an industry strategy for content development. We want to provide a framework for thinking about how agencies and clients can restructure and rebuild their communities to develop more new products and services which are fit for purpose; and address issues of investment and return. By sharing current best practice and providing opportunities for safe experiments in lab conditions we hope to encourage wider participation and exploration.

One measure of our success will be the range of departments within agencies we can engage in the conversation; it would be great to see people from creative, creative services and production, strategy and client services all getting involved.

Our next Adaptathon will be in two parts, there will be an evening debate on diversification strategies and the future of commercial creativity on Monday 3rd February at Altitude, Millbank Tower. This will be followed by three morning labs hosted by The Bakery, IC Tomorrow, Power to the Pixel, the BCMA, GoogleLab and The Loop on Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th February to explore the potential for big data, new tech, longform and deep-dive content, and how to monetise it for brands and businesses.

There’s still time to sign up now and come along and get involved.

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