Is content the answer in 2014 - or just cojones?
A view from Danny Rogers

Is content the answer in 2014 - or just cojones?

We start 2014 with an observable spring in our step. Consumer confidence - the lifeblood of commercial creativity - is on the rise. Meanwhile, the plethora of companies reviewing their brand communications this month highlights a renewed vigour within the marketing world.

To kick off a buoyant year in advertising and media, this issue features a collection of "state of the nation" essays from authors selected for their vision. Most were winners of major Campaign accolades during 2013.

Thankfully, they provide requisite optimism for the year ahead, yet are wisely grounded in gritty practicality. For example, Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s chief executive, Ben Fennell, astutely warns of the need for suppliers of creative services to be collaborative and connected; to demonstrate empathy for client cost control; and to look hard at mutual outcomes.

Brands will invest millions of pounds
in content, but how much of it will actually lead to any beneficial effect?

Inevitably, success this year will be derived from smart use of the latest tech. To this end, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s chief technology officer, Gregory Roekens, offers as good a summary of the latest innovations as you will read anywhere this month.

The other dominant theme, which carries over from 2013, is brands’ obsession with "content" – a subject naturally close to my own heart. The ad production guru Robert Campbell, the founder of Outsider, sums up the evolution of what we know as "TV commercials" into the less easily defined concept of content.

But this fundamental change in how brands communicate with consumers is still poorly understood. MediaCom’s boss, Karen Blackett, hits the nail on the head when she admits agencies have yet to calculate "the true value of social" and the pressing requirement to judge the impact of content being developed for brands.

We professional journalists are acutely aware of the growing glut of content available to our own audiences, much of which has questionable quality, independence and, ultimately, worth. And publishers are not alone in this quandary. This year, brands will invest millions of pounds in content, via owned or earned media, but how much of it will actually lead to any beneficial effect? And how will they define which bits worked? Ironically, this is the age-old criticism of traditional advertising and good old-fashioned bought media.

All of which leads us to a more enduring recipe for success in 2014. As Sir John Hegarty would say, great brands are truthful and transparent but, above all, are imaginative and tell powerful stories. Put more simply, the industry could heed Andy Nairn’s advice. Like birds emerging from mid-winter, he writes in his Campaign blog this week, the business should regrow its cojones.