Tom Idle
24th April 2018 - 8 mins read

I couldn’t bear to sit around on the sidelines any longer while some agencies just messed things up,” is how James puts it when I ask why he’s decided to venture into the world of content marketing.

In his six years as MD of Media First, James and his team have been asked more and more to help with different communications challenges – to present better, to deliver more impactful messages, to shoot and edit film, to hone communications. “We’ve been naturally moving towards helping with content marketing over the years. Now, with Thirty Seven we will get to help our amazing clients in a much more involved way.”

James is joined by Mark, an ex-Microsoft application development consultant, who has been running his own content and design agency for the last five years. Having worked together enhancing Media First’s own content marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) performance, the pair decided to team up.

“We’ve built a loyal following and I enjoy knowing that what we are producing is worthwhile and entertaining,” adds James. “I knew that, so long as we kept enjoying the creative process and stayed true to our journalist-led concepts of always putting the audience first, then there was a good chance that people would continue to enjoy reading, watching and listening to the content we were making.”

Enjoying the frisson of their new business launch, the pair were keen to tell me how and why they plan to do content marketing better.

 

It seems that your decision to establish Thirty Seven was based on a belief that most content marketing is poor. What’s wrong with it? 

Mark Mars (MM): So much content is produced without any strategy behind it and the quality just isn’t there.

When it comes to SEO, there has been such a focus on creating pages that rank for certain keywords. What you often end up with is lots and lots of content which might create a decent search ranking, but the quality is so poor that visitors don’t stick around for long. Google has caught up with that and now has more quality measures in place.

James White (JW): SEO and content are still considered by some agencies to be separate pieces of work. But they need to be considered together. You don’t produce good SEO with poorly developed content; it just doesn’t work.

Also, the content marketing industry seems to be in a race to produce the most amount of stuff. Quality is coming second to quantity.

 

But clearly your customers are increasingly aware of the need to improve content quality. How have you evolved to cope with changing client needs?

MM: A hell of a lot has changed in the last five years. Back in 2014, spend in content marketing was about £125 million a year. By 2020, it is set to jump to around £350 million, so brands really understand that this is the best way to reach their audiences.

There is also more appetite from consumers to digest content in many different forms, which opens up plenty of opportunity for publishers and content creators.

But that is not to say that it is being done particularly well. About 80% of B2B marketers claim to use content marketing. But 70% of them lack a consistent or integrated content strategy—and that’s a big problem. There has been too much focus on quantity over quality.

JW: ‘Quality’ is such a generic term because it’s all subjective. You need to develop the right content, for the right audience, in the right format, at the right time and in the right place.

Brands need to think more like publishers to really get the value out of content.

 

You use journalists to deliver content for your customers. The benefits of doing that might be obvious, but what is it you’re getting from journalists that you might not get from other content creators?

JW: Well, content should be more than just marketing. It’s not just good enough these days to tell good stories. You have to educate, entertain and excite audiences. You have to give people a reason to care.

Journalists inherently get this. They know how to sniff out unique stories that make people stop, sit up and listen. My wife is a journalist and she has a great ability to be brutally honest. I could spend all day coming up with, what I think is, a great idea. I’ll go home and tell her about it and she’ll challenge me by saying something like, “Who cares? Why will your audience give a damn?”

And that’s what’s great about journalists. They can easily put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and work out how people tick. That’s why I’ve loved working with our team of journalists at Media First these past six years.

 

Back in 2014, spend in content marketing was about £125 million a year. By 2020, it is set to jump to around £350 million...

 

All of your customers will have very different needs. How do you approach each piece of work to deliver the best results?

MM: Well, you need to get into the mind of the client to find out what they want to achieve, rather than just blindly creating content. You need to help build a cohesive and coherent plan that includes not just what content you will create, but also how you are going to publish it and promote it.

JW: It’s all about meeting objectives. Is this content to raise awareness? Or is it to convert lurkers on a website into buyers?

It’s also about looking at data to find out what types of content a client’s audience wants and how it wants that delivered.

When we get into content creation mode, we work like an editorial newsroom to script, write, edit and sub-edit. That then goes through a cycle of refinements until we are happy for it to leave our office and reach the client for sign-off.

 

There’s a continuous debate about the virtues of long- versus short-form content. Which do you think is best?

MM: It’s not really about what’s better. It’s about what’s most appropriate.

We do live in a fast-paced world, but to say that nobody wants to read more than 500 words just isn’t true. Long-form content has always received more shares and links than shorter pieces. People do appreciate the time that goes in to creating quality long-form content. And Google does too, with their algorithm generally favouring longer content.

 

So, are there rules for creating great content that you stick to?

JW: We like to use the simple TRUTH test – that the content is Topical, Relevant, Unusual, Trouble (solves, raises awareness of or discusses) and importantly, contains Human interest.

But it has to be delivered in the right format as well. Many people were surprised to hear that Media First and Thirty Seven have joined forces to create this magazine. Yes, it might seem a bit retro but not all audiences are the same; not everyone wants to read a blog or get their information from social media. I have a Kindle and iPad at home but still buy books, newspapers and magazines.

 

The General Data Protection Regulation is coming, giving individuals more control over how their personal data is collected and used online. What will it mean for the content marketing industry?

JW: It’s certainly something our clients need to be aware of, not least because the new regulation is so far-reaching. It will affect not just marketing but internal comms and even supplier contracts.

You can either hide under your desk and pretend it’s not happening. Or you can see it as an opportunity to be proactive.

I personally think it’s a great thing. I will have more control over my data and who markets to me. And as a content producer, I will know that we are providing our audiences with information they want.

 

So, what does the future look like for content marketing?

MM: We are drowning in content and it is getting harder to get results. The average number of shares of any content has been steadily falling over the last few years. So the whole practice does need to evolve.

That means content marketers need to be a lot more strategic about the type of content they create, backed by better research. And instead of asking inexperienced or new writers to churn out low-quality pages of blogs for long-tail keyword targeting, content teams will be comprised of creative designers, developers, AI experts, videographers, as well as plenty of experienced writers and journalists too.

JW: We also know that it’s going to be important to work closely with our customers’ teams. I hate the concept of a full-service marketing agency, where everything is outsourced. I hate to see comms teams dwindling in size. We want to support our customers to retain in-house teams because we’ve seen just how important they are during the last 35 years working with Media First.

 

What’s with the name, Thirty Seven? How did you come up with that?

MM: Well, if you ask somebody to pick a random number between zero and 100, a disproportionate number of people will choose the number 37. The more you delve into the number – the fact that it appears more regularly than any other number in films, for example – you realise just how special it is. It’s attractive and we’re in the attraction game, so it made sense.

 

What’s it like working with each other? Do you always get on or are there things you disagree on?

MM: We’re very similar. We’re both ambitious and want to succeed.

But our work lives have been very different so we have different ideas about how things should be achieved.

JW: Sure, sometimes Mark and I approach things from a different angle. Occasionally this leads to disagreements. But we complement each other. If we were both the same, we wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as a team.

Ultimately, we both want to deliver projects that excite and motivate us. That’s the reason we get out of bed in the morning; not to just earn money to pay the mortgage. It’s about more than that.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

Marketing

7 campaigns that went viral for all the wrong reasons

Aimee Hudson 2nd October 2017 — 8 mins read
A

big budget helps, great ideas are critical, but as some of the below companies found out some elements are simply outside of your control and can sometimes cause campaigns to go viral for all the wrong reasons…

 

Walkers Wave

In this campaign, fans were asked to tweet their selfies so they could feature in a short video clip in which Gary Lineker held a picture of their selfie and said “Thanks for joining the Walkers Wave and celebrating the UEFA Champions League Final.”

However, this backfired and went viral in a way Walkers probably wished it hadn’t.

The crisp producer set up an automated tweet system meaning all images were automatically submitted to show in the picture frame.

But, there was seemingly no screening or filtration process.

This meant that when members of the public started to tweet in images of people who are famous for committing crimes, the campaign quickly started to go downhill.

 

 

The campaign’s failure soon spread like wildfire through the Twittersphere and other media platforms due to the ease of sharing posts.

You can tell Walkers had good intentions and hoped the campaign would be original, convey emotions, spark interest and be easy to share.

Like any great campaign it did do this, just not in the intended way.

 

Pepsi’s advert featuring Kendall Jenner

Pepsi faced huge backlash to an advert featuring Kendall Jenner where she was seen giving police a can of Pepsi on the front line of a protest.

The advert was meant to portray a message of peace, unity and understanding but instead was criticised for trivialising social justice demonstrations.

In the advert Kendall is seen giving a police officer a can of Pepsi, he then smiles at a fellow officer as protestors cheered. 

Backlash from the advert suggested that if protestors were kinder and gave police a drink, there would be no need for social justice demonstrations.

The public mocked the campaign with key influencers like Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter, tweeting a picture of her father with the caption:

 

 

Pepsi’s hope of creating a campaign relating to current political events obviously fell flat. It initially defended the advert saying it “reflects people from all walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony”.

However, the backlash continued to grow, and Jenner also faced criticisms with Eric Thomas, senior partner of Saga marketing posting on LinkedIn that “A Caucasian, blonde, classically beautiful, affluent, kid born into celebrity probably isn’t the person you need to represent struggle and civil unrest”.

Pepsi finally withdrew the advert and apologised with the following statement:

 

 

Southern Rail – Let’s Strike Back

It’s not just food and drink based campaigns that can go wrong as Southern Rail found out when its Twitter campaign was derailed.

The company’s campaign asked its customers to challenge a Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) strike on Twitter.

With the headline ‘Let’s Strike Back’, the company’s initial tweet asked customers to tell the union how the rail strikes make them feel with the hashtag #SouthernBackOnTrack

 

 

But perhaps not surprisingly given the operators reputation for late, cancelled and over-crowded trains, customers used the hashtag to lambast its service.

 

 

Quickly, Southern Rail lost control of the campaign with the public creating their own, more popular hashtags including #SouthernFail.

Soon, national media picked up on the Twitter storm generating more unfavourable headlines and comments for the company.

The company initially refused to apologise for the campaign or the poor services customers had received, saying its ‘aim was to get the debate going’.

However, a month later the deputy chief operating officer of Govia Thamesline Railway, the parent company of Southern Rail, said the tweets were a “mistake.”

It’s clear to see there was little debate around the topic but more a way of customers to vent their disappointment and even anger at the brand.

 

Amazon: The Man in the High Castle

Back in 2015, Amazon’s new show ‘The Man in the High Castle’ depicted a dystopian life in which Nazi Germany and Japan have control over the US after winning World War Two.

To promote the show, Amazon decided to advertise across New York City.

The company wrapped the subway seats, walls and ceilings of one train in a version of the American flag, replacing the stars with a German eagle and iron cross. They even created a stylised flag for the ‘new Japan’.

The campaign also involved having 260 posters across the subway station.

The advertisements were due to run for 2-3 weeks until early December but were pulled hours after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called Amazon to do so.

Bill de Blasio stated that the advertisements were “irresponsible and offensive to Word War II and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers”.

The lesson learnt: Historical events are still sensitive even in a dystopian world.

 

Coca-Cola – GIF the Feeling

When Coca-Cola changed its tagline from ‘Open Happiness’ to ‘Taste the Feeling’, it decided to celebrate the launch with the campaign ‘GIF the Feeling’.

The idea was that the public would be able to superimpose their sentiments on a pre-created GIF.

Coca-Cola was smart and had thousands of words filtered so they couldn’t be included in the campaign including hell, fat, homosexuality, diabetes, all swear words, business, sex, drugs and more.

However the public, as menacing as they are, decided to get creative and create GIFs with the words which had not been filtered, including diarrhoea, capitalism, Benghazi and more.

It was soon clear to see Coca-Cola had lost control and the public had hijacked the campaign.

In a statement, Coca-Cola said: “Our intention was to invite consumers to share their feelings in a positive and uplifting way as they discover our new campaign. It is unfortunate that some people have chosen to use our campaign materials to do just the opposite” … “Their comments do not reflect the views of The Coca-Cola Company”.

 

Protein World - Beach Body Ready

The supplement company’s weight loss advert featured a model in a bikini with the phrase ‘Are you beach body ready?’

It was displayed all over the UK and faced huge backlash for ‘body shaming’.

Watchdog reported the campaign received almost 400 complaints. Additionally, a protest was held in London’s Hyde Park and a Change.org petition gained more than 70,000 signatures.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) stated it had received a range of complaints on issues including the ‘very slim, toned’ model which suggested that all other body shapes are inferior.

Protein World remained defensive and unapologetic during the backlash. It even invited the public to consider if they were in the shape they wanted to be and claimed that the campaign doesn’t imply everyone should look like the model.

After much debate over the wording the ASA initially deemed the advert did not breach any UK advertising rules relating to harm and offence or responsible advertising.

Many of the public were upset with this result and continued to campaign against the ‘beach body’ image.

However, after some further consideration ASA decided to ban the advert and ordered it to be removed.

Protein World continued to advertise with similar campaigns like ‘Think Small’.

 

Bud Light – Up For Whatever

In an effort to get everyone together for a good time, Budweiser launched its campaign ‘Up For Whatever’.

The beer company produced bottles with the following line printed on them, “The perfect beer for removing ‘No’ from your vocabulary for the night’.

This led to heavy criticism on social media with critics claiming it undermined the anti-rape “no means no” campaign in an effort to stop sexual assault.

It upset many consumers who claimed the beer’s messaging didn’t recognise that alcohol frequently plays a part in rape cases.

The initial release of the new bottles was supposedly designed to ‘inspire spontaneous fun’.

Soon after, Budweiser admitted it had ‘missed the mark’. It said: “We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behaviour”.

However, a longer statement was issued by owner Alexander Lambrecht who said: “The Bud Up For Whatever campaign, now in its second year, has inspired millions of consumers to engage with our brand in a positive and light-hearted way. In the spirit, we created more than 140 different scroll messages intended to encourage spontaneous fun. It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it.”

 

 

While all these campaigns certainly succeeded in becoming part of the conversation, it came at the cost of damage to the reputation of the brands involved. And they show how a few simple errors, or a poorly thought out idea, can quickly turn something with good intentions into something hugely negative. Going viral is clearly not always a good thing.

At Thirty Seven, we offer content marketing services and ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures our content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement for all the right reasons.

Mark Mars
3rd October 2017 - 2 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.