McMurry/TMG COO explains content marketing: Gives advertising “relevance”
Feb. 13, 2013 -- Earlier this year, ABM member TMG Custom Media merged with marketing leader McMurry to create the largest content marketing agency in the country. The merged organization, McMurry/TMG LLC, estimates its combined revenues will now near $100 million, and its team will total 270 employees housed in four offices across the U.S. Through magazines, e-newsletter, websites, video, white papers, search, social and more, the firm aims to connect brands directly with thei target audience.
Fred Petrovsky, COO of McMurry/TMG, tells ABM about the deal, what makes content marketing attractive, how a strategy is developed and what this emerging marketing trend means for business publishers.
ABM: How did the deal come about? What was the goal?
Petrovsky: An investment bank came to both McMurry and TMG Custom Media with the idea of a combination. The goal was to create the leading agency in content marketing. When we looked at it, it just made a lot of sense. Both agencies are very healthy in their own right, we have similar culture and the client overlap was minimal. Just to emphasize how great a fit this was, the whole thing took about three months to complete. Deals like this usually take at least a year.
ABM: What do the companies gain with this deal?
Petrovsky: Each group benefits from being part of this new, larger enterprise. Each has its particular strengths in terms of the types of clients it serves and the products it offers and brings those to the table. For example, McMurry didn’t have significant social media capabilities, but TMG does; TMG didn’t have a complete video and production house, McMurry does. Together, it’s the perfect fit for us and for our clients.
ABM: Explain the current state of content marketing. What are clients looking for?
Petrovsky: Content marketing is becoming increasingly more complex for brands. It’s not just publishing a magazine like it was 20 years ago. It’s a very robust, strategic effort, often fueled by an integrated program. As a result, brands are realizing they can’t do it all themselves and still run their business, yet they understand the importance and the value so they’re increasing their commitment to content marketing.
As they move more of their spend into content, they are looking for outside advisors to help them develop programs and strategies that build their brands. We are responding by offering businesses experience in developing content across all platforms and formats. The kind of editorial, design and strategic skills we offer aren’t available at traditional ad agencies.
ABM: But what goes into these campaigns? How is the strategy developed, and how is it executed? Why do you think this is more effective than a traditional marketing effort?
Petrovsky: Well, content marketing develops strategy in a different way than traditional marketing or advertising. Traditional advertising would assume a one-size fits all approach to sharing information or content with a consumer; you develop a dazzling campaign and then go for as many repeat impressions to that campaign as you could possibly muster. Not to say that approach is broken, but it is certainly what has contributed to the average consumer being so overwhelmed by media and messages. I believe the average person is exposed to something like 5,000 ads a day.
In content marketing, we’re looking for relevance. We can’t assume that the same message or even the same medium would reach two different people. We look at the target audience’s trends and interests. For instance, are they active socially? Not just have an account, but also what are they creating, commenting, sharing? Does this audience own tablet or smartphone platforms? What are they reading? When?
That’s really the first stage to developing a content strategy. The second step is developing the content that will engage that audience and continually measuring and tweaking our approach so that we see a return for our clients. Content marketing is providing something that’s relevant and interesting. It doesn’t simply interrupt people, like ads; it engages people. Is that more effective than traditional advertising? I certainly think so, but an objective answer is that eMarketer.com just announced that marketers state content as their number one priority this year. That— and the relatively flat trajectory of digital and traditional ad spend — speak volumes.
ABM: How should b-to-b publishers respond to this new form of marketing?
Petrovsky: Content marketing is augmenting some of the more traditional b-to-b marketing and advertising methods. We see the two existing side by side for many companies, serving different roles and supporting each other. As content marketers, we want to be an integral part of our clients’ larger marketing and branding efforts. Publishers – and traditional ad agencies – should take that approach as well.
ABM: There has been a lot of talk insisting publishers shouldn't "fear" content marketing but can serve as partners. How can this work?
Petrovsky: Publishers are the experts in their audience’s needs, and if they’re doing a good job, as most are, they have nothing to fear and everything to gain. We’re here to help -- as your allies and partners.
Content marketers are here to support publishers extend their partners’ impact and bottom lines by working together to create powerful campaigns, with measurable goals, that exist alongside their own content and fuel their core offerings and financial goals. A high tide raises all boats.
For example, native advertising – whereby website and magazine publishers offer client-produced, clearly-marked-as-such, “sponsored” content within their platforms – is constantly evolving and here to stay.
ABM: Do you think the traditional roles of "publisher," "brand," and "marketer" are shifting? In your opinion, how is the landscape changing?
Petrovsky: Publishers still offer editorial environments that support and underscore brand characteristics and deliver key audiences, but ultimately marketers are asserting greater control and stewardship of brands by developing broader outreach strategies.
As content marketers, we tap into the best practices of journalism and design to create authoritative, trusted content, just like traditional publishers. Everyone wants the same thing: they all want eyes on the product, they want audience buy-in, they want to drive action, they want to make money.
By Elizabeth A. Reid