Marketing agencies work today in a world vastly different from what it was a few years ago, a world in which transparency has trumped spin.
“Many people think that transparency is a great thing and others think it's a great danger; but there is only one truth, and that is that every company is transparent in today's world,” said Auro Trini Castelli, head of strategy at gyro New York, speaking at BtoB's Digital Edge Live NYC conference last week.
“People get to know everything about a company,” said Castelli, a panelist in the conference session, “B2B's Edgy Side: Top Trends in Digital Marketing.” “So since there's no way to escape, you better be transparent.”
Michael Ruby, VP-executive creative director at Stein IAS New York, agreed.
“People already know about a brand before they get to it,” Ruby said. “For us as agencies, we have to tell long-tail stories that are found and remembered.”
Ruby said the issue of transparency is particularly pertinent today with the rise of native advertising, which offers myriad pitfalls for agency and advertiser alike.
“It's a problem when native ads try to obfuscate their message by hiding in other content,” Ruby said. “It's like when I see content on Twitter or LinkedIn that doesn't belong; it gets me mad.
“It's better just to tag native advertising for what it is, branded content. If people see it has value, they won't care who it comes from.”
Allison Womack, president of Doremus New York, said, “Your audience will know if your content is valuable. Marketers' job is to provide that value.”
Ruby said the best content comes from clients themselves, as product and customer experts have the best feel for good, relevant stories.
Transparency and quality content must be joined by persistent messaging, panelists said. In a marketplace in which many competing voices vie for attention, being perpetually “disruptive” is key, said Alexander Jutkowitz, managing partner at Group SJR New York.
“When you think about what we're adding to the knowledge pool of this world, it's about creating disruption every single day,” Jutkowitz said. But he cautioned that disruption must offer value to the marketer-customer equation, which he called “the interlocking relationship that builds magic.”
“We won't light a forest fire every day, but we try to keep that fire lit,” said Linda Boff, executive director-global brand marketing at General Electric Co., who moderated the session.
“The idea of being always-on leads to being trusted,” Boff said. “You've been consistently sharing information in a transparent way, preparing for the time when you need to cash in a little of that trust.”