Content marketing is 'not advertising', says IAG marketer

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 11 February 2019
Zara Curtis

Content marketing is still massively misunderstood, including by people in senior roles, and could fill a gap left by dwindling community newspapers, says IAG director of content Zara Curtis.

Speaking at Think Content Breakfast, on a panel hosted by Storyation and NewsCred, Curtis was joined by Tourism Australia GM of content and campaigns Susan Coghill and Microsoft CMO and communications director Pip Arthur. The panel was directed by NewsCred CEO Shafqat Islam.

All three marketers agreed that six years after content marketing blew up, education around what it actually is still remains a big challenge, with Curtis saying she’s yet to make IAG’s CEO and CFO understand the role and importance of content marketing.

“People ask us to 'storyboard content' and I say “No thanks, it’s not an ad",” Curtis said.

“You have to be absolutely fearless and a risk taker [when working in content marketing]. I’d probably be a gambler if I didn’t do this job. If you’re not, then you get watered down and bad ideas come through.

“I’m very strict about who I let into the creative process and I’m trying to be stricter with brand because content isn’t advertising content.”

Curtis, who built the insurance company’s content team from scratch when she joined 11 months ago, also warned about the dangers of ‘creative by committee’.

“I’m very strong on content not being an ad that needs 20 people to sign it off,” Curtis said.

“There’s really a fine balance and you’re probably best to look at this with your latest campaign but creative by committee is when you end up with the Pepsi commercial and it really frightens me.”

Curtis references the infamous Pepsi commercial featuring model Kendall Jenner that was slammed for being tone-deaf.

Coghill echoed Curtis’ point and added the importance of being selective about the content Tourism Australia puts out, particularly given that the travel industry floods the market with content.

“It’s not about doing creative by committee and it’s also not about content for content’s sake,” Coghill said.

“We need to make sure we’re really focused on what type of content we put out, when we put it out and make sure it’s meaningful, adds value, and addresses our brand values.”

Brands stepping in for local newspapers
As local newspapers continue to close across the globe, Curtis raised the idea of content marketing being able to fill in the gap of sharing local stories that get left behind.

She said advertising is there to “tell and sell” while content marketing is there to “tell stories and show”. So instead, she's been focused on sharing 'beautiful' stories - not just selling insurance.

Speaking to AdNews after the event, Islam was uncertain about the future of brands picking up this role.

“The slow demise of local news is actually a huge problem that we’re just starting to realise,” Islam said.

“Someone has to fill the void and brands have an opportunity to do that. Brands can do it if they can give a sense of purpose and inspire the community and bring it together to share warm stories and good news.

“The problem is how are they incentivised to do that? Is it going to move the needle for their business or not. I’m not quite sure we can hold brands accountable for doing it as a long-term business objective.”

The event was the first by Storyation and NewsCred since they signed a strategic partnership last October.

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