Why Your Media Plan Needs a Content Component (And How Do It Right)

Content Now 'Table Stakes,' Says Carat USA President Doug Ray

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In our latest quick Q&A with a media leader, Carat USA President Doug Ray explains how to use content marketing in a media plan -- and why it's a bad idea to leave content out.

Doug Ray
Doug Ray

Advertising Age: Would you launch a product today without content as part of the mix?

Doug Ray: Clearly some clients are doing that . But to me that is table stakes. If we continue to do just do that , we will commoditize ourselves as an industry. To deliver more value to clients when budgets are not growing, we need to find new ways to challenge existing marketing models to deliver more value, and that comes through in earned media.

There is a program now going into its third year for Smirnoff called "Master of the Mix" that has run on BET. We inherited it in 2010, and have turned that show into an entire ecosystem of consumer engagement where you can access music. Carat worked with IHeartRadio to create an "always on" Master of the Mix radio channel. [Fans can] connect on Twitter, interact with the DJ and host on Twitter and Facebook, and the result is an increase for the first time in five years in brand affinity and a lift in sales.

Ad Age : So will you cut back on paid media?

Mr. Ray: I do see a shift from paid media to earned, but it's not that overall marketing will decrease but that the money will shift to content production, social mediations, social networking and clients adding resources they didn't have before. But marketing budgets shouldn't come down.

Ad Age : How do you use content to drive your media plan?

Mr. Ray: Take the Gillette Fusion ProGlide in 2010. Historically, we would have created TV spots, print spots and blasted young men with the message. But consumers are skeptical. So we started with the key influencers and grooming bloggers and let them socialize that product to their loyal readers and followers. We challenged people to go out and use the razor and we put the results on our YouTube brand page. We collected user-generated content, testimonials and results of people shaving, and we had experiential pop-up "shave stores" and invited people to come in.

We used paid media to start the momentum so consumers knew they could participate. Once that engine was running, we kept that oiled on Facebook and Twitter and the video footage -- earned media -- became part of our mass communication and we used it in our paid ads. It led to the single biggest and most successful launch in the history of Gillette and surpassed awareness goals and sales goals.

Ad Age : You've said useful content is an area advertisers can exploit more. What do you mean?

Mr. Ray: One of our clients -- Pampers -- had struggled to connect with moms prenatally, but there has been a lot of research that if you can connect with moms then, you will win once they've had the baby. We said, "You need to become a publisher and get into the content game if you want to win."

Carat connected Pampers with a third-party editorial partner who developed content that is relevant to prenatal moms' online search queries. Now people are interacting with that content on and it's driving a higher return on investment. Where we do content programs and syndicate across publishers, those can be three, four, five times more effective than other media in driving purchase intent.

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