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Talking Content Marketing – With Tom Goodwin

Tom GoodwinTalking Content Marketing welcomes speaker, writer and SVP Strategy & Innovation for Havas Media, Tom Goodwin.

I reached out to Tom after reading a recent thought provoking article from The Guardian (published on 4th September). Click here to read his article, ‘Advertising agencies are dying, just as they become most vital.’

Tom covers advertising and technology trends and his work appears regularly in publications including Advertising Age, Adweek, Mediapost, Campaign, The Drum, and Digiday. Tom is a featured contributor in Wharton’s Advertising 2020 program.

Our conversation looks at the role for agencies in a transformed world.

Do you see companies jumping on the name ‘content marketing‘ without understanding the virtues of creating consistent value for an audience?

I think it’s hard because content marketing has never been defined, it seems to be a bucket that we put many things in. At the moment it appears to be everything that is advertising, but not with ‘paid for’ media, but now we pay to distribute some content, so it’s now literally anything.

I see so many errors. The main issue seems to be that people do it because it’s cheap, then if it doesn’t work they take relief from the fact it didn’t cost much. We need to do a flip around and think about people, what do people need, want, value, cherish, how do we add something to them? Is that value in entertainment or utility or information?

We need to be open to the idea that not every brand has much to add, it’s not something everyone has to do. And when you are doing it, it needs to compete with everything ever made. A cheese brand is not competing with other cheese brands for funny virals, it’s competing with the works of Shakespeare, Mozart, U2,  Britain’s Got Talent, friends wedding pictures, and everything ever made.

Has the world moved online without appreciation of the culture and unwritten role of engagement for each platform ie. a goal to build followers, collect likes and sell from rather than building engagement?

Absolutely, the best and worst thing to happen to advertising was measurement.

We used to have no idea what worked, so we relied on our gut, we also had patience and long-term goals. Now we can measure SOME things precisely, we focus on what we can measure, which is rarely the most important thing, and increasingly not remotely important. We also get confused between metrics that will correlate with success and metrics that are success. A good campaign may get 10,000 new followers and that’s great, but if 10,000 new followers are the goal, then the measurement becomes the goal, that’s when we see brands endlessly doing dumb things. A world of “like us” to win messages, or inane questions is prevalent. In a world where all brands want followers, every brand becomes babies and cute dogs, the metrics go off the charts but is that success?

If I could say one thing it would be focus on the big goals and the gut, these other smaller metrics are good indications you are there, but not the goal itself.

How as organisations do we need to develop/change and as you say time that ‘agencies stepped up to the plate’?

I think they need to focus more on people and less on technology. We’ve become obsessed with technology but it should be background. We must know ALL about it, we must play with it, become deeply familiar with it, but then put it to one side and focus on people and problems. When and only when it becomes useful in the process of solving a problem should we use it.

We need to get bigger and concentrate on the big issues. Let’s think what CEO’s are sleepless over, it’s likely not “likes” or “views” , it’s more likely to be big business issues. How can we step up and do things that really change the future of business.

With the ease to produce and consume media, you mention a ‘deflation in ambition.’ Is this a path that too many businesses follow?

I think they do, for a creative world we can be very cautious. The words at conferences are brave and strong but we do little to shake things up. The global rebound and a plethora of new tech and new agencies in mobile and content and social make things look buoyant and prosperous, but we’re actually making small stuff, with small margins and it’s becoming more so. I see an endless slow movement towards little things, made more quickly and more cheaply. That could be a death spiral.

Is there real opportunity for the small and agile agencies that aren’t yet at full scale?

I think these are wonderful times for people that are excellent and hard working. The internet is democratic, good ideas spread the world in seconds, new technology allows anyone to produce with world class quality. It’s a sort of democratization of creativity. I think so long as people have great ideas and big world thinking there needs to be no barriers. But it’s a mindset that can limit, we get wrapped up with easy wins and places that are easier to bring about change, but I’m worried about over supply.

We’re going to see a lot of content, digital and mobile agencies fighting with a pie that doesn’t grow soon, a lot of deflation and competition. I’d hope agencies can rise above the production and focus on big thinking and focus on bigger challenges and look to the future and future problems.

My gut is that management consulting needs to be worried about the creativity of small boutique thinking agencies that understand people, ideas, brands, business and technology.

How do you become inspired and learn?

My biggest problem is that there is too much good stuff in the world, especially at a time of click bait my issue is filtering out the good stuff.

For me it’s a combination of following interesting people on Twitter, a lot of strategy types and VC people, especially I like Benedict Evans, Faris Yakob, Ben Thompson and Bud Cadell in particular, Marc Andreessen is always interesting. I don’t agree with much, but that doesn’t make it not useful.

I like to travel, I love seeing how different places solve problems, I love how the future is here but spread around the world, it’s amazing to see the best parking solutions in Romania, the best public transport intelligence in Brazil, bet payment solutions in China.

I like going to meet up groups, enjoy some conferences and the normal stuff, the other joy of mine is Quora, I love the endless questions and debate on there. You need to put a bit of effort in to making it work, but it’s worth it for a curious mind.


Thanks to Tom for his time and following up from his Guardian article, always great to get insights from those within the UK. Why not connect with Tom:

Tom on Twitter: click here

Email: tom@tomorrow-innovation.com

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