Is Content a Commodity?

If you’re looking for content creation or content marketing help, you’ve probably Googled it. Right? And you’re probably overwhelmed with the sheer numbers of reputable agencies and individuals populating those results. Right?


Don't act like you don't remember slam dancing.
Don’t act like you don’t remember slam dancing.

Traditional advertising agencies, SEO agencies, PR agencies – they’ve all wised up to the idea that content is where it’s at. And that’s because content is… where it’s at.

They want to ride the wave. So while custom content has never been their “THIS IS WHAT WE DO BEST” offering, they’ve jumped right into the push and shove of the content marketing mosh pit. Some of them are adding content departments. Some are rearranging their entire business models to transform into content marketers. And some just fake it.

I have a problem with all of these.

Call it creative integrity. Call me a content marketing purist. Call me a child.

(I am a child.)
Cue tantrum.

Content creation, particularly the execution of content projects, is quickly becoming a commodity. Not everyone is getting it right, and that’s a problem if you want words that actually, you know, make sense and drive an emotional response. It’s not the most serious problem, though.

The real issue goes beyond words. Brands are struggling with their content campaigns precisely because they have agencies calling their content a “campaign.” These aren’t strategic partners – these are agencies-turned-content-farms that might execute reasonably well but aren’t getting out from behind the words to understand and cultivate the idea behind the words.  As Doug Kessler points out, “There are are thousands of agencies out there that will offer to help your business on its branded content journey. And unfortunately, it’s true that many of them don’t know their asses from their elbows.”

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you have a massive agency that offers everything. Everything! And let’s also say they do a pretty good job with everything. They’re leveraging a long history in writing ad copy and long-form copy to morph into a one-stop shop that includes content marketing. There’s really nothing wrong with this – but it’s what I think of as very vanilla.

Save yourself.

Last month my son celebrated his seventh birthday. It was a low-key occasion with pizza and cake at home. His grandmother made a cake. I took the children to the grocery store to pick up some things the day before the party, and we stood in the ice cream aisle surveying rows and rows of choices. Cole wanted pistachio because it’s his favorite. My boyfriend is (cue the weeping) allergic to nuts. Cole’s brother pushed for strawberry and his sister made a strong case for rocky road. We left Publix with a half gallon of vanilla.

Why? Because it’s easy and it’s liked by most. We can agree that it’s a non-offensive choice. Vanilla appeals to a wide swath. It’s safe. It’s the, “sure, that’ll do,” of the majority. But it also doesn’t evoke a strong emotional response.

EVG isn’t vanilla. We’re double peanut butter fudge. We work in a niche – not everyone gets it and not everyone thinks Company X needs it. That’s ok. Because while we’re not for everyone – the people who love us/get us/dig it really love us/get us/dig it.

Sara Fraser – VP Content Strategy

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