I’ve Been Writing Ad Copy Since 1982, And News Copy Since 1983.

Content marketing. Everyone wants some.

But David Spark of Spark Media Solutions cautions that few of the agencies busy peddling their “content marketing” expertise have the necessary chops to make that claim.

Yes, ad agencies and PR firms without a seasoned editorial staff can physically create media, but it’s like hiring a general practitioner when you need a specialist.

I’m sure I’ll get a lot of heat for this comment as many ad agencies and PR firms are basing a lot of their new business on content marketing. I’m all for that, just as long as they have an experienced staff to do it. That requires hiring people who have worked in traditional journalistic media, not just giving new responsibilities to staffers who don’t have the experience or training. Traditional media is very different from creating ad copy.

I agree that writing ad copy and producing brand-sponsored content require different approaches, and that a background in journalism is helpful to content producers on the agency dime. However, speaking from my own experience, the two practices can be performed by the same person, or team. Just like a gifted guitar player can pick up the banjo and/or mandolin and sound great, a writer grounded in both advertising and content can weave a story in both venues, and move from one to the other without a hitch.

For me, it’s about intent. Great advertising reveals a core truth about the product or service in a fresh, “why didn’t I think of that?” fashion. Through strategic and repeated media placements, the new idea gets adopted by prospects and brand value is created. Brand-sponsored content, on the other hand, often has a very loose connection, or no connection at all, to the product or service in question. Content’s intent is to inform or entertain. When it’s done right, content is a gift.

Direct and brand advertising come with an ask; therefore, advertising is often an unwelcome intrusion, not a gift. Once you understand the difference, and you have real world experience creating both ads and content for brands, there’s no reason both services can’t live under one roof (as they do at Bonehook).

By the way, here I am getting the News pages together at The College Reporter in Lancaster, PA, circa 1984:

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