Marketing or Journalism: JWT launches content marketing agency

It was all so simple for brands in the glory years of advertising. Back then, talking bears advertised lager on TV and cigarette press ads were perceived as stylish.

A client could walk into his advertising agency and order a TV campaign. With the leftover change, he could afford some press and posters. The media guys would buy some space in Coronation Street and wrap up before lunch.

Of course ad agencies – or at least marcomms – are supposed to have moved on. But one area that doesn’t seem to have changed is the agencies’ belief that they can do anything related to the brand, be it DM, digital or sales promotion. Now they think they can do content marketing too. Or at least they are putting about the impression that they can, because the content marketing train is in the station.

The latest sweaty arrival on the platform is JWT, which has opened Colloquial, a content marketing agency with offices around the world. Good luck to them, they will probably do well. I hope they realise that although content marketing may seem like just another discipline in the marketing mix, an advertising ‘creative’ is going to fall short if handed a brief that requires quality editorial. Just because you have a copywriter who can write a witty account of an inter-agency football match for the intranet, it does not mean you have people capable of writing something for the Financial Times.

Quality content marketing means quality journalism. And for that you need journalists. Not someone who specialises in creating 150 words of body copy for a spread no one will read.

Looking at the press release for the JWT launch, it appears that most of the staff will come from within the agency. This could mean they have already hired journalists, or alternatively that the work will be produced by direct marketing or advertising copywriters.

Still, the service is likely to be attractive to clients who know that the agency knows their brand. It’s a comfort zone: the use of different suppliers means more stress in holding a campaign together. But the content work must look more Economist than a sales brochure, or it’ll be giving us all a bad name.

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