Content vs. Media: Debating Which Advertising Asset Constitutes the True Commodity


In this mad dash to bring in pure traffic, you recognize a terrible, horrible fact about your line of work: you can sell coal for a living and wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between what you do now. That’s right, Mr. Razzle-Dazzle Marketer, you’re in the commodities business. You’ve got a certain budget and you need a certain amount of stuff for it. In this case, that stuff is traffic and it’s in big demand. Prices even go up when there’s high demand, just like coal. But there are locked-in rate discounts for long-term buys. And there’s even “high-quality” traffic for the “top marketers” and “low-quality” traffic for the penny-pinching, “what’s-the-name-of-your-company-again?” marketer.

And because your ad agency (or media seller) made sure your ads are now repurposable in any media format, you couldn’t care less where they appear, because everything is subordinated to traffic: creative, goals, long-range brand building strategy. In fact, you’re not even sure your boss is planning on sticking around long enough in his current role as your immediate supervisor to really appreciate what “long-range” means.

Attracted by the sexiness of “being in marketing”, and spending gobs of your employer’s money on “marketing strategy”, you entered your profession with the utmost naiveté. Regrettably, all that sexiness got dirty, as you dug your mine looking for coal, dealing with all kinds of pests and vermin along the way, and what you’ve realized isn’t so much that all media and content are the same, but rather, if all content is actually brandable and repurposable anywhere and all media can accept all brands, then there’s nothing really left to do in marketing than mix and match based on how much bang you can get for your buck.

In fact, there are so many ways to slice, dice, and make nice with the data from what you do, that “guts” no longer play that much of role in your boss’ decision-making when determining that bang for his buck. He knows exactly what works where and with what audience. So why bother being creative about it? Put enough money (don’t you wish your company spent like GM?) behind any inane promotional gimmick and you can virtually guarantee success as measured in traffic. Your boss stays happy and your job secure. (At least until Google launches Google Media Buyer Beta). And stockholders, wouldn’t they eventually catch on to your boss’ ineptness at marketing? Sadly, investors wouldn’t know creative if it came imprinted on a $100 dollar bill.

And so it is that both content and media have both now become true commodities. Sure, some content is preferred over other, but in an age of precision targeting, something will always be interesting to someone. ( I actually enjoy “Ahnold” movies and detest “Trump TV”). All you have to do with your content today is put it on one of the 20 different video websites currently live today, build an audience for it, then sell it to NBC because they’ll buy anything right now. It may not be water-cooler talk to everyone, but it sure is worth leaving at least a comment on a blog.

And media, well, we’ll tell you what we recently advised a new client who wanted to purchase a station to broadcast his totally new concept for television: media isn’t about the medium, it’s about the brand. Launch a brand, distribute it on every platform, and your audience will follow you no matter what new fangled medium launches tomorrow.



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