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Wanted: a Modern Content Coalition

A decade ago DigitasLBi created the first NewFront as a stand for premium digital video and a virtual clunk on the heads of decision-makers to get them to pay attention to digital. The name “NewFront” doesn’t exactly disguise where we thought the money to support this attention would come from.

In 2008, digital ad spending represented less than 10% of total ad spend, and for many brands it was an afterthought. Today, digital represents 40% of ad spend and is poised to surpass TV. (According to eMarketer, US digital video ad spend will see double digit growth through 2020, with TV at just 2-2.5%.)

So . . . mission accomplished. Or one mission accomplished.

If 10 years ago marketers were not paying enough attention to digital, today they’re not paying enough attention to content.

Don’t get me wrong: content marketing is one of the fastest-growing marketing segments and by one estimate spending by US companies on content will surpass $300 billion this year.

But for too many companies, content remains marketing’s neglected stepchild.

For them it’s an after-thought, an add-on—or, worse, an experiment. It’s poorly-defined and disconnected from other marketing activities. A week doesn’t go by without someone announcing they’re not sure what content is, or whether it works.

Some of those criticisms are fair. The word content itself is fairly weak (I say that as someone who has the word in his title). It can be applied to almost anything right now. It can mean almost anything. And it can come from almost anyone: media agencies, ad agencies, talent agencies, media publishers, studios, production companies. It can be borrowed, or owned or a blurry in-between. And because the approaches to create, track and measure are as broad as the spectrum of content genres, there’s no clearly defined content industry. No agreed-upon benchmarks. No recognized trade association to give shape and definition to this important segment.

But those things are needed. And they’re needed now.

As we did in 2008 with the first NewFront (which many thought was a crazy idea at the time), we are taking another stand. This time, a stand for standards on content quality. A stand on greater diversity for the kinds of content produced, casted and through the lens of. A stand for radical collaboration bringing together brand marketers, publishers, agencies and content creators. A coalition that can come up with common definitions, benchmarks and standards. That can build common currencies and give marketers the tools and confidence they need to invest in content, and measure ROI.

So we’re throwing down the gauntlet. With a challenge. A dare. Better yet, a help “needed” ad:

Needed: 10 brands, media owners and even agencies to join DigitasLBi in forming a Modern Content Coalition.


This diverse community will author—in 150 days—benchmarks, criteria and codes for how content is created and measured.

In the subsequent 150 days, each of these coalition partners will create a concept (for potential production) that best expresses the standards and codes authored during those first 150 days.

The clock starts now.

Because when content is done right, it represents the best we have to offer as marketers: stories. The kind that have engaged people for centuries. Updated to reflect new technologies, new trends – to ask new questions.

That’s why we chose the theme of the Caveman & the Astronaut for our 10th annual Digitas NewFront. It was inspired by a quote from author and scientist E.O. Wilson:

“We live in an age that combines stone-age instincts, medieval beliefs and god-like technology.”

Because content doesn’t just deliver what we want. It reflects who we are: Cavemen, huddled around the fire passing stories down through the generations. Astronauts, always looking to discover what’s next.

Astronauts deal with what’s possible. At their best, they surprise us and offer new and unique experiences. At their less-than-best, the focus on what’s shiny and new can overlook emotions and human connection. Cavemen deal with what’s shared. At their best, they exploit the power of common emotional ground, stir our passions and tell rich human stories. At their less-than-best, they feel tired and set in their ways.

Today we stand at a new intersection—the corner of Caveman & Astronaut—where primitive instincts meet god-like technology. Let’s join forces and explore what’s possible together.

Who’s in?

Scott Donaton is chief content officer at DigitasLBi. He tweets @sdonaton

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