Without love, your expensive content is just pollution

Justin Pearse is MD of The Drum's content marketing agency The Drum Works and is a member ofBIMA's executive committee. He is a former editor of New Media Age.

Much content marketing is just pollution

I love writing this column for The Drum. (The sound you can hear in the background is the editor laughing bitterly as he wonders why my copy is always late….)

I love producing content, ‘writing’ as I used to call it in my journalism days. I love its ability to inform, educate and most of all to provoke debate. It’s no surprise that content is one of a marketer’s key tools in engaging and audience.

It’s also no surprise that ‘content marketing’ has become such a buzzword in recent years. Digital marketing is ever evolving. Banners, affiliate marketing, SEO, programmatic trading – the industry and technology rushes to keep up with the changing behaviours of the online consumer.

As attention spans continue to fragment at the same speed of the media they’re expected to focus on, it’s kind of inevitable we’d come to see ‘content’ as the panacea. Content, better described I often believe as storytelling, is the one constant in everyone’s life, no matter what age, demographic or country they live in.

But what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the effect the collision of the words content and marketing into one neat industry descriptor has. Whether we’re losing respect for the very core of content. The foundation of which is words – even the most visual of films starts with a script – the most powerful things in the world.


Are you shocked? Disgusted? Repulsed? Or simply shaking your head at my boring attempt to create an effect. No matter, if one word can cause such an immediate visceral reaction it’s obvious what 10, 100, 1000 is capable of doing.

It’s this power we are often in danger of forgetting when ‘content’ becomes merely an adjunct of ‘marketing’. Words have an incredible ability to move people. They deserve the same if not more respect that the means and method of their transmission.

The problem of course is that the method of transmission, digital in all its forms, now makes the distribution of content so simple, so frictionless, that it’s easy to forget the power of the raw materials.

Once this happens, once we lose respect for the very elements, the words, that make content so powerful in the first place, that make is such an effective method for brands to engage their customers – even that word is inappropriate, we should call it their audience – content just becomes pollution.

And the money brands are ploughing into content marketing becomes not only pointless but damaging to their brand as it simply funds the torrent of content pollution people are increasingly faced with in their daily life.

I’m fully aware that every word I’m currently writing is a form of content marketing but it’s also a pleasure producing something I hope my audience will enjoy, will find interesting/stimulating or even infuriating. Infuriating? Yes, because content is the fuel of discourse, for debate, for conversation.

It’s what makes The Drum such essential reading. Something we hope to emulate on our new site, stopcontentpollution.com, which will gather the thoughts of industry thinkers, including The Drum’s own online editor Stephen Lepitak, on how we tackle the problem.

It’s time to get the love back into content marketing. If you don’t love what you’re producing, you how can you ever expect your audience to?

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