The Devil wants Pravda (and he wants it now)

Every so often, during a meeting or call, the sound of the fiendish Ave Santini (better known as the Omen theme tune and often mistaken for the unintentionally funny 1980s Old Spice ad) starts playing in the back of my head.

So what is the omen that sparks the orchestra into life? It’s a request for a specific type of content before the idea has even been discussed.

It happens every time somebody asks for “an infographic”, before they have any information; “thought leadership”, before they’ve done any thinking; or “a viral”, before they’ve done anything infectious.

The Ave Santini Moment
It’s all a bit predictable: content vehicles emerge, explode but ultimately decline when marketers start planning trendy outputs before they’ve plotted any meaningful inputs.

When Marshall McLuhan famously said that the media is the message he may have had a point; but not anymore: people want great, creative ideas presented and delivered in the best way (whatever that maybe).

The end result looks like a classic product curve: what was young and energetic, starts to look mature and tired, and begins a rapid decline accompanied with a backlash against “infocrapics” and “viral diseases” as the market gets swamped with corporate propaganda that wouldn’t look out of place in an edition of Pravda.

The graphic below illustrates the point of panic for this humble B2B marketing account director:

B2B Content Vehicle Lifecycle

As you can see there’s a paradox at work here: the Ave Santini moment takes place as the putative number of experts starts exponential growth. Why? Because the experts, following the demand and the money, tend to be technical (focused on outputs) rather than creative (ideas focused).

Why it matters
And all this worries me because it makes providing the best possible service more difficult in three ways:

  • Genuine creativity is overlooked. If it’s not your primary consideration then your campaign will be still born.
  • Great content vehicles get commoditised too quickly. It’s annoying when tools become cheapened and discarded when there’s no obvious upgrade: we know iPhone 5 is coming with new features, but there’s no roadmap for infographic 2?
  • Content marketing gets demonized. It’s harder to do great marketing when you alienate your audience with empty shells rather than useful, beautiful and actionable content.

So let’s exorcise the growing belief that vehicles are the source, rather than the vehicle, of creativity. Put the idea first then we’ll protect our profession, our campaigns, our options and, of course, my mind.


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