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article imageOp-Ed: The 'cost problem' of content marketing lives in misunderstanding

By Michael Krebs     Jun 14, 2013 in Business
Claims made in some corners that content marketing programs are "expensive" have not been fully thought through when compared to the costs of existing creative services and lack of ROI from banner advertising.
Writing for Digiday, Giselle Abramovich asserts that sponsored content has "a cost problem."
Since Abramovich's editorial background originates in direct marketing, (DM News), and mobile media, (Mobile Marketer), it is understandable that she might perceive content marketing costs - measured again in media-oriented CPM (cost-per-thousand) thinking - to be higher than those she has seen in direct and mobile circles. In fact, direct marketing programs are usually not priced on CPM, opting instead for bottom-feeder positions in CPA (cost-per-acquisition) and CPL (cost-per-lead) equations. And mobile marketing has never proven its value, spitting minute banners in an ocean of unsold inventory at CPMs that are well below 50 cents.
What is the real ROI (return-on-investment) in the chum feed that is direct marketing and mobile marketing? How many CPC (cost-per-click) studies among these "scientists" have fallen well short of the sales mark?
Digital marketers have been talking about "banner blindness" for years, and the online industry - from its associations to its publishers to its brand-side luminaries - have been working toward solutions to a problem that is unique to digital media. Never mind that television advertising remains tethered to arbitrary sample sizes and household meters that have never proved whether or not a given advertisement was seen by a given audience; never mind also that print circulations across newspapers and magazines alike are in free-fall and that the only measure of success in an Audit Bureau of Circulation statement on numeric values that do not measure wasted bulk at news stands or at hotel drops.
Come on. If you are a marketer dropping coin in television or in print, you are investing in the kind of "branding impressions" that digital marketers need to better understand. However, online media offers a wealth of reporting, and the perceived breadth and depth and value of this reporting offer an in-the-box imprisonment for digital marketers who bleat a desire for out-of-the-box deliverables. "Banner blindness" is a euphemism for the CTR (click-through-rate) and interaction-rate enslaved who claim a desire for "something else."
Well, content marketing - now a $44 billion enterprise, according to the Custom Content Council - is that "something else."
Content marketing requires an investment in time and in resources; this is a truism. It is an investment in the brand and in the principles of the brand and in the narrative to which the brand desires an association. These goals cannot be achieved through traditional advertising, nor can they be obtained through public relations efforts. What then are the values placed on these objectives? Can these values be measured in a CPM or a CTR study or in labor hours?
To measure content marketing investments in terms of outlay and labor "cost," we need to compare these investments to the current investments shaping present-day marketing and public relations programs. What are the "costs" in billable labor hours from creative services shops to produce a television commercial or a print advertisement or a rich media digital execution? How much does an advertising agency bill its client for "services rendered" when those same creative and media services are now being delivered by innovative publishers at a fraction of the production costs?
When looking at the equation of production costs alone, content marketing programs come in at a dollar outlay for marketers that is often considerably less than that proposed by their advertising agencies. Additionally, agile digital publishers are able to deliver content marketing creative at high quality and at a remarkably faster turnaround than creative teams at advertising agencies who are frequently bogged down with labor and project management issues of their own. Missed deadlines equate to higher costs, as creative teams at advertising agencies bill by the contracted hour - and cost over-runs are the norm.
Similarly, public relations agencies bill by the hour - regardless of whether or not a given narrative was picked up by the press. In the public relations game, "impressions" are measured by press pick-ups, and the science behind this approach is not at all intact. The "costs" here are unknown. Conversely, a content marketing execution is a guaranteed placement in a well-chosen environment - and the cost is known upfront.
Considerable cost savings through content marketing programs are found with event production, with on-screen talent, with podcast production, with copywriter hours, with graphic artists, with labor unions, and so on. The CPMs on a publisher's line-item often bake in these production costs entirely, thereby delivering even further savings. The ROI is then found on multiple planes - from production to distribution to advanced media placement at blended CPMs that factor it all in.
Still think content marketing is too "expensive?"
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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