Agencies, brands or publishers? Who owns content?

MediaCom Beyond Advertising’s Paul Tremain reveals why it shouldn’t be a battle between agencies, brands and publishers for ownership of content

By Paul Tremain | November 4th, 2015

Creative agencies are hiring ex-journalists and publishers, media agencies are making TV ads and publishers are getting smarter about how they commercialise their content. Creative agencies, media agencies and publishers can all lay claim to ownership of the content – so who does own it? and who will reap the greatest rewards from content in the future?

The ownership debate in the agency landscape continues to be contentious – some saying the originator of the idea takes ownership, while others believe that the publisher is responsible for their audience and therefore should take ownership of the content.

The real truth is that agencies are in the business of creating great content for their clients, in the same way that as consumers we pay for a product or service and then own it.

Our clients pay us to create engaging, informative and influential content that reaches audiences and conveys a message through assets that they ultimately want to (and in most cases should) own and can use across their owned channels.

Of course, every brief is different and with the growth of the content partnership, it’s indeed true that when working with publishers they may stake a claim to take a period of exclusivity of that content. This is in the spirit of the partnership but ultimately the brand are left with some amazing assets.

A great example of this is our campaign for the charity Scope, in which we developed a content partnership for them with Channel 4 and created a series of short form video series to sit on the ALL4 platform called What not to do”.

Channel 4 not only hold a broadcast license which means they have a commitment as a broadcaster, but they have a clear understanding and tone of voice which they wish to communicate with their audience.

We married this understanding with Scope’s objectives and target audience to create a compelling series of short form content that Channel 4 would hold for a period of 30 days exclusively, but thereafter Scope take ownership of this content to distribute and to be used across digital channels of their choice.

It’s important to say the ownership debate wasn’t important in this arrangement, Channel 4 were interested in creating great content for their ALL4 platform that delivers viewership, whilst we had an objective to change perception for our client within a targeted audience.

In simplistic terms, we are the builders, developers and creators of things –  we are not owners.

However, this shouldn’t be confused with the right to lay a claim to owning the ‘idea’ – this is very different, in the same way that a person who designs a great house takes credit for inspirational architecture, we take credit for the strategic thinking, impactful idea and execution.

Many brands are now extending content briefs to their media agencies, especially those with content divisions – why? Well, keeping media, creative and content together in one agency can often drive cost efficiencies and therefore makes commercial sense.

But more importantly media agencies are in a great place due to the amount of data and insight they have access to, which in turn fuels the creative and content ideation process, something that many creative agencies cannot lay claim to.

Content isn’t a silo discipline any longer, some of the most successful brands operating in content are using it smartly, they are using it as a central or key component of their media plan – they are very clear on the role for content and the message they want this to convey.

With this being a central part of the media planning process we expect to continue to see the media agency take more ownership of these campaigns.

In summary, the future is bright for media agencies offering content solutions but it’s even brighter for the brands who are smart enough to adopt this as a communication channel for their consumers.

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