Should content be funded from above-the-line ad budgets?

The popularity of content marketing could represent a threat to traditional advertising budgets, Arif Durrani finds.

One of the most striking trends in 2014 has been the growth in content marketing and all its various offshoots. From the rise of video-on-demand to the emergence of social media stars and the formation of native advertising units, content is having a moment.

There are plenty of self-serving arguments being played out around definitions and parameters, often among those with the most to lose or gain. But something everyone agrees with is that more content is being commissioned, produced and distributed than ever before.

The Content Marketing Institute reports that 76 per cent of UK marketers surveyed said they are producing more content than they did last year. But where should all this new marketing investment come from?

Publishers and agencies can speak excitedly about expanding the general market and carving out new spend from clients, but such talk is pie in the sky. Client-side marketers will stress their finite budgets are already overstretched and it is simply unrealistic to expect to significantly boost investment in content marketing without reducing spend elsewhere.

Advertising spend in the UK is expected to have two strong years and reach £20 billion annually for the first time in 2015, according to the Advertising Association. So where will we find the funds for content marketing?

In traditional media, television ads continue to command the lion’s share of spend, despite the evidence of younger viewers migrating away from TV screens. Last week’s Digital Day 2014 report, published by Ofcom, found that the average child now watches one hour and 32 minutes of live TV per day, half the amount of the average adult. Could the best way to communicate with the consumers of the future be a more fluid form of content marketing outside of traditional media channels?

Some believe the rise of content marketing should be funded from the £1.9 billion spent on direct marketing, and the parallels with the often channel-agnostic form of communication that allows businesses to communicate directly with customers are clear. So how should content marketing be funded?


YES Maureen Rice, editor-in-chief, Cedar

"I’d take it from the ad budget. People are using ad-blockers and fast-forwarding through commercials. It’s crazy to invest in a declining medium. Good content marketing connects with customers in a way old media no longer can."

YES Jeremy Hart, founder and managing director, Inc Content

"For the price of one X Factor ad break at about £200,000, Inc Content has created ten campaigns and generated more than £100 million in earned media exposure. Of course above-the-line funding should spend on content."

YES Andrew Hirsch, chief executive, John Brown Media

"Content marketing is now at the heart of all brand marketing messages. Above-the-line and below-the-line are old-fashioned. We will be seeing more and more traditional above-the-line budgets diverted to content marketing."

NO Ben Kerr, executive creative director, Somethin’ Else

"I’d say you should probably take it from your CRM budget. Otherwise, if it’s campaign-based, it’s an ad. Content is to retain and develop an audience – it’s a different job to advertising – so I wouldn’t try to steal the ad budget."

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