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September 01, 2018

What Is a Content Agency?

At first thought, you might think that the term “Content Agency” is simply a synonym for “Advertising Agency.” It sounds like it might be an agency that has the ability to actually produce ads in addition to undertaking ad concept development. Whilst this is true to a point, a Content Agency incubates, develops, and produces creative concepts for brands and movements.A Content Agency doesn’t simply make ads.

You might ask yourself: “How can a company produce branded content that isn’t an advertisement?” There is a fine but important distinction between advertisements and content. Both types of media are important, but the goal of each is different. Understanding this distinction will dramatically illuminate how you think about building your brand, and what a Content Agency can bring to the table.

In order to understand what a Content Agency truly does, it’s important to first get a handle on the difference between ads and Content.

Ads vs. Content: What’s The Difference?

The simplest way to start to think about the difference between content and ads is by identifying the absence or presence of a clear call-to-action. Almost always an ad will contain a call-to-action; it is trying to get you to do something. “Buy this””Watch this””Go here””Download this”. There are all sorts of creative, interesting, engaging, and emotional ways that a brand can present an ad, but if the fundamental message in the media is that you should do something now, it’s an ad. Ads are an integral part of any brand’s successful media strategy. The 30 second TV spot is virtually unmatched in its ability to grab attention and influence an audience to act upon a brand’s call-to-action.

Content is different. Content is about telling a story. It’s about a connection, trust, and a relationship that develops between a person and a brand over time. Think of it this way: an ad is equivalent to the moment that somebody asks you out on a date —that’s the call-to-action. If the pitch is convincing, you’ll go out with them. Content is your actual experience of the subsequent date and the ensuing relationship that you develop with that person. It’s the ongoing process of learning their story, developing trust, and discovering who they are. Another, maybe simpler way to think about content vs ads is to considera book. The cover of the book is essentially the book’s advertisement. The content is the story within the pages. The cover may succeed in getting you to pick up the book in the first place, but the content will determine your long-term relationship with the book, and what the book’s story means to you within the context of your own life. The purpose of content is to do the same for a brand. Content doesn’t tell you what a brand does or ask you to do something, rathercontent shows you who a brand is. It builds credibility and trust in the brand; strengthening and defining brand-essence over the long-term, across multiple media platforms.

Where an ad is designed to flash and fade, a smartcontent strategy is designed to swell, continue, and blossom gradually over time. It tells the story of the brand, the story of the humans behind the brand, and the story of the people that have developed relationships with the brand. Good content reveals the “why” as opposed to simply the “what”. Great content produced as part of a powerful content strategy is where a Content Agency comes in.

What a Content Agency Does

A Content Agency take a brands, movement, or message, and examines it from all angles. The goal is to pinpoint what it is about the brand that has the potential to truly connect with people on a deeper level than something that is purely commercial-driven. The Content Agency then finds the gem at the center of the brand —a message an entire community can be built around. Next they will take that idea and produce content that attracts and grows the community. It should reinforce the value-based feelings that the brand represents; not just make videos about what the brand sells. Being liberated from the need to communicate a call-to-action, a Content Agency then has the ability, even to take risks and to experiment with new forms of art and types of artistic voices, technology, story presentation, exhibition platforms, and cultural integration. A Content Agency finds new ways to produce content and to push it just outside the realm of “traditional messaging”to begin to redefine what “traditional messaging” actually is.

As an example, consider this short film produced by the outdoor clothing brand Patagonia. It accomplishes what a 30-second ad never could.It doesn’t ask you to buy anything or talk about how great Patagonia clothing and products are. Instead it goes deeper by asking you to do something; it nudges you to think about something. To think about conservation, about the passion of the spirit, about perseverance, about pushing your physical and mental limits, and about finding bliss within our natural environment. It appeals to the sense of adventure and quest for accomplishment that lies deep within all of us. These are all core tenants woven into the fabric of Patagonia’s brand-essence. People who identify with these ideas will easily connect with the content, and by extension connect with the brand. Patagonia gains credibility and trust effortlessly by simply telling an authentic story. This is what great content can do for a brand, and it’s the type of media that a Content Agency specializes in.

You might be asking what your content strategy should be. Each brand’s story is different from the next, and the type of content that will resonate with one audience will not necessarily resonate with another. This is where a Content Agency excels; finding the right message that will strike a chord with your audience, tell a story, and begin to build a community. That said, there are some qualities that all great content usually contains: creativity, a distinct artistic vision, authenticity, a compelling story, passion, and a clear, unique voice. A Content Agency will develop concepts that combine these qualities, and produce the content that ensures the voice and artistic direction are carried through from beginning to end. This is key in ensuring that your brand’s voice remains consistent and genuine.

Content Reveals The Truth About a Brand

To sum up;content reveals the truth in your brand, your message, or your movement. Targeted advertisements are important for catching attention and providing a platform for a call-to-action, but content goes much further. It brings shading, detail, complexity, and nuance to the features in your brand’s portrait. Where ads will come and go in quick bursts by design, content will remain and inspire over the long-term. A Content Agency owns this responsibility. It looks beyond advertising to find the soul living in the nucleus of the brand, and through an intelligent content strategy exposes that soul to the world. Some will identify with it and some won’t, but those who do will rally around it, form a community, and adopt what the brand stands for as part of their own identity. This is the true power of great content, and it’s at the heart of everything that a Content Agency does.