Content vs. Creative: Is the role of content director the new creative director?

In a time before market intelligence and data analytics, marketing was exclusively an industry for those with a flair for creativity and ideas, but the evolution of content marketing has given rise to a new role - the content director.

Digital tools and data have no doubt changed marketers’ lives, but it would be foolish to underplay the role that creativity still plays in the implementation of content marketing strategies. Great creativity inspires and plays on our curiosity. This inspiration makes people want to hear more, learn more and engage more.

Creative directors historically fall into the category of these great minds; traditionally highly-focussed on advertising and thinking up that big viral idea that delivers value and revenue for a brand.

On the flipside, content directors have focussed more on the actual platforms for content, and how to reach the right audiences.

The two roles, however, have a number of similarities; both need a strong knowledge of their brand audience, alongside the ability to reach this audience with the right content and advertisements. But, these skills are applied in contrasting ways.

Creative directors tend to focus more on a campaign basis – delivering for a specific project – whereas content directors hold a more ongoing, long-term view to build conversations over a period of time.

The changing role of the creative director

Twenty years ago, the role of creative director was somewhat limited to creating 30-second TV commercials and this has now evolved into making engaging pieces that resonate with consumers. Brands previously used creatives as the brains behind adverts that would increase their sales revenues, but this has increasingly transformed as they take a longer-term view: today they want people to fall in love with what they see, using content that commands adoration and loyalty.

Content directors make these ideas come to life. They take the creative ideas and mould them into something tangible to bring them to life. Using knowledge of platforms and their audiences, content directors deliver ideas to completion and engage brands with their audiences.

The birth and growth of content marketing has undoubtedly contributed to this transformation, to the extent where we are no longer asking if or how content marketing can revolutionise advertising and publishing – but more who will be responsible for this going forward. Ideally the answer to this is both creative director and content director, working in tandem to complement each other’s skillsets to produce valuable branded content.

So, do brands and agencies need both?

Ordinarily, content marketing falls under one or both of two different guises: entertaining and informational. The former is usually the brainchild of creatives, with the latter being under the remit of content teams – using key brand messages to inform its audience through the appropriate channels.

This may be a sweeping generalisation about each respective role, and there are inevitably overlaps between the two. Creative directors often create fascinating and entertaining content, while content directors obviously require a great deal of knowledge about the brand and what audiences are seeking by way of content.

The presence of both content directors and creative directors – and their range of skills – is important to brands and agencies. We now need to decide on the combination of skills that it requires from both, depending on whether content needs to inform or entertain – and take a strategic decision based on these needs.

Isabella Barbato is the marketing manager at content discovery platform Outbrain.

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