Content Creation versus Creative Content

Everyone understands that it's vital to have a site that works fantastically on a technical level, but it's just as important to consider what goes onto that site.


Content creation is something all clients talk about in every meeting I've been in for the last few years and for all the right reasons. Because everyone understands that it's vital to have a site that works fantastically on a technical level, but it's just as important to consider what goes onto that site.

Sometimes though I think ‘content creation’ sounds a little like ‘let’s just make stuff to fill up the empty space’.

And the research doesn’t lie. A recent Content Marketing Institute report cited 88% of respondents – from a pool of UK for-profit marketers - saying that they use content marketing, and 76% stating that they are producing more content in 2014 than they did a year ago. As an advocate for the value of content this is great, but delve deeper and the report tells us that only 42% have a documented content marketing strategy. To me, that sort of figure indicates that there are a lot of organisations producing more content than ever, and popping it up on their digital platforms without a lot of thought behind it.

If the actual content is not useful, insightful and yes I would argue, entertaining, then why should anyone want to look at the content you’ve created? Or hang around? Or want to come back and see what you’ve created next? The answer of course is…there is no reason.

So I’d argue it’s not about ‘content creation’ it’s about how creative you make the content. Let’s look at how you can apply a few principles to make your content creative.

Keep it simple stupid

What is the big single idea you want to convey with each particular piece of content you want to make? Work that out first then put all of your creative energies (or the energies of all your creatives) into explaining that message to your target audience in the most clear, powerful and single-minded way you can. Simple.

Speak the language of your customer not technical gobbledygook

All industries have buzz words, acronyms, technical terms that in all honesty mean absolutely nothing to people who don’t spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week doing what you do. So don’t speak to them in your language, use theirs. As a creative team writing copy for advertising campaigns, between us we have worked on literally hundreds of different brands and services in dozens of sectors and I see our role as much a translator as a copywriter.

Be brave about the budget

Often a client will tell you they want to spend a few thousand pounds but then give you a list of films and ads they’ve seen saying they would like something similar. Without exception these references will have cost 10 times the budget they have. So let’s all be realistic and most importantly write great ideas to fit the spend. In fact I’d argue there is less and less reason for content creation budgets to be small. Just because your film is going to run online and not on national TV that is no reason to skimp on the spend. Firstly the viewer can always tell how much money a client has spent on the screen, whether they’re watching it on a 40-inch HD TV or an iPhone. So spend as much as you can…. not as much as you think online deserves. And secondly online will soon be the main screen people turn to, so invest now.

Don't worry about what compliance will say

All good creatives have to understand the parameters of what they can and can’t claim, whether that’s in the (very strict) alcoholic drinks industry, advertising to children or the financial sector. TV commercials are governed and judged at all stages, from script to first cut to final submission. So any good creative will understand what will and won’t be acceptable to your compliance department. I can honestly say we’ve never had an online film script rejected by any compliance department. That’s just understanding the rules and experience.

A good client is one that wants to do something good

If you really want to do great creative content you have to make a few commitments. Be brave. Be different. Trust your agency to deliver. And be prepared for flack from some quarters. Not everyone likes to be different, it can scare some people. But the truth is that, as Bill Bernbach the most famous adman of all said:

“If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.”

Choose people, they matter

Trust is key. Ideas flourish in a space where people feel confident everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Yes, there are going to be differences in opinion, concepts that don’t make the cut, but if you believe that the creative team sitting before you truly understands who you are, and what you’re trying to achieve, together you’ll come up with the goods - creative content that is on brand, and says what you wanted it to.

Seek out a team that, as well as the usual complement of talented digital practitioners, also has people on board who have been taught the principles of good old fashioned advertising, those focused on the big ideas.That’s the ultimate blend, and one that makes the difference between ok and great content.