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In Today’s Digital Landscape, Brands Need Long-Term Strategic Content Partners

David Bates, Managing Director, ATKPLN

In the 30 years I’ve worked in design, branding, and marketing, I’ve seen multiple instances of seismic change that forever impacted our industry. In these instances, the companies that survive are most often those that are exceptionally good at what they do or those who are agile enough to adapt and evolve. These times often shine a light on flaws in current practices. While these methodologies may have come to be for very good reasons, they often outlive their purpose. During these times of upheaval, companies often react in one of three ways:

  1. Resistance: Pushing back against the changes and doubling down on existing ideals and approaches. This works, sometimes for those who are exceptional, but most often results in a company becoming irrelevant and eventually failing.

  1. Pivot: Swinging pendulum-like to a new or different approach that has merit but is accompanied with great risk. Success usually depends on the company’s appetite for difficulty in weathering the evolution to a new approach.

  1. Hybrid: Setting long term goals for change, but implementing manageable, hybrid steps that move in the appropriate direction. Companies that embrace long-term focus with interim solutions seem to most often have the ability to weather changes.

To say that brand marketing demands have changed since the early ‘Mad Men’ days of advertising is an understatement, but most of the methods for producing content in the marketplace have remained the same. The clash between old school process and current needs can cost campaigns in quality and much more. If brand content needs are growing, a rethought and revitalized creative process will not only optimize the volume of their creative output, but also continue to elevate a consistent core ethos. New needs call for new measures, and This is where a more flexible, hybrid approach can become key for long term success.

To meet the constantly shifting and growing demands for fresh content, brands must objectively look at what they can realistically execute internally to determine how external partners can best supplement those capabilities. Since the content needs for brands are constantly changing, evolving thinking to embrace a long-term strategic content partner can be an advantageous approach to address holistic content needs. Since audiences consume content much differently than the early days of broadcast advertising, advertising needs a total plan shift that truly addresses not just whether the work is being handled by an internal or external agency, but how evolving content needs can be quickly addressed to meet overarching brand goals. A toggle switch choice of internal vs. external simply doesn’t account for all needs. Supplementing these choices by aligning with a strategic content partner beyond single spots or campaigns, brands are able to more effectively keep up with the high volume of content they need, while still retaining consistency in production value. Consumers are far more savvy than in past years, and brand inconsistencies are often quickly spotted and shared on global platforms. Having strategic partners walking alongside can significantly help with both quantity, quality, and consistency of content output.

When the production industry shifted from film to digital recording, developing a process that optimized the new technology took a mammoth learning curve. It became immediately apparent that approaching digital with the same framework as film was not only faulty, but also limited the opportunity to experiment and innovate. But, In the ad industry today, we are still producing content as if the primetime broadcast :60 is still the golden standard of video, whereas social media and streaming booms have radically transformed and expanded the possibilities for content marketing. Even if we create new structures, utilizing old methods within them still limits their effectiveness. If the canvas has shifted so drastically, why are we using the same paint brushes?

Brands once were expected to be what they appeared to be at face value: purveyors of products or services that met a unique need of a consumer. While that is still true today, brands are also now expected to positively contribute to the culture and society of its consumer base. While the media spend for cornerstone advertising slots like the Super Bowl were the most highly coveted due to sheer volume of eyeballs you would reach, now brands are able to connect with their fans (no longer just consumers) directly on social media through devices they use virtually around the clock. For brands that want to be at the cutting edge of technology in their business sector, having a robust R&D department is a no-brainer and worth a significant investment. Why isn’t there a similar care towards investing in the direct communication they are able to have with their potential customers?

Given that the advertising industry is a sector that thrives best with constant innovation, updating the way that brands work with content partners seems like a no brainer. While in many ways it is a “one size fits one” solution, investing in the right strategic content partner for the unique needs of the brand could result in cost efficiencies and higher content output. More content, at higher speed, with less worry. For brands that have built up in-house creative capabilities, a long-term strategic content partner becomes an ally who understands the shorthand and nuances of the brand, complementing brand strategies with external production capabilities that can be mapped to both short term and long-term brand goals. The right partner will organically feel like an extension of your company, operating externally with additional expertise not contained in-house, while bringing an internal strategic mindset to the table. This longer-term partnership allows you to build trust and create a synergistic relationship that results in content that resonates with your target audience.

The advertising industry needs a change that has only become more visible during our restless time at home during the pandemic. The marketing needs of brands have drastically changed so business models and methods of working need to evolve to create more efficient and collaborative workflows that engage with consumers and drive revenue. With brands making significant investments in the creation of core brand content assets, there is a huge opportunity to optimize these assets for the long-term world--and in turn, loyalty--building.


About David Bates

David Bates is the Managing Director of creative studio ATKPLN. He got his start in creative marketing for FOSSIL, spending nearly a decade in multiple roles before joining Reel FX in 2002, evolving to become Head of Commercial Production. Bates returned to Reel FX in 2015 after six years in a strategic leadership role at Bedrock Manufacturing, working on the launch, relaunch and management of a diverse range of brands, including Shinola and Filson.


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