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The ACC believes in content

Hans Hermans

The ACC believes in content

Cypres is a member of Custo, the Belgian association for custom content and content marketing agencies. This year CUSTO moved from ThePress to the ACC, the association of Belgian communication agencies. CUSTO´s blog Content Talk discussed this with Johan Vandepoel, CEO of ACC, and Pieter Vereertbrugghen, CUSTO president and managing partner of Cypres.

CUSTO, the association for custom content and custom publishing agencies, recently joined the ACC, the association of Belgian communication agencies. We discussed this with Johan Vandepoel, CEO of ACC, and Pieter Vereertbrugghen, the president of CUSTO.

Custo has moved from ThePress to the ACC. What was the reason?

Pieter Vereertbrugghen (PV): "When Custo was formed, the members were still mainly focused on making periodicals: customer magazines, personnel journals and newsletters. ThePress, as the association of periodical publishers, was a logical choice at that time. We´ve had good years there, but the digitisation of our sector has revolutionised everything. As an association of communication agencies, the ACC is today a better ´home base´. We are agencies that come up with content strategies and make content for advertisers. We are more than magazine makers.”

Is CUSTO adopting an independent position vis-à-vis the ACC?

Johan Vandepoel (JV): “All members of Custo are also ACC members. CUSTO is the name under which they go to the market as a group of high-quality content agencies. They do that in their own, independent way. In addition, within the ACC, CUSTO assumes responsibility for the Expert Center Custom Content and Content Marketing."

Does CUSTO´s arrival in the ACC reflect an evolution in the communication sector?

JV: “Absolutely. Content has grown far more important in recent years. And today there’s also a great need for integration and collaboration in communication. It’s especially from this perspective that we are very pleased about CUSTO coming on board. They’re bringing specific professional knowledge with them. Work is still being done in too disorganised a manner, while what companies are really looking for is precisely omnichannel efficiency. The different ways of approaching people have to be better harmonised with one another. That can be achieved if content marketers learn more about advertising and PR, and vice versa. CUSTO’s joining the ACC will facilitate this process. It perfectly reflects the changes in our sector."

Is the web the cause of these changes?

JV: “Web 2.0 in particular has shaken things up. Suddenly the web became much more interactive and users had a lot more input on determining the content. Then came the mobilisation of the web. Since the launch of the iPhone we can now consume and create content wherever and whenever we wish. The simple model of the brand that sends out a message in the consumer´s direction is entirely superseded. Now it´s less about ´the message´ and more about relations, conversations, experiences, transactions, etc. Every agency has to move along with this trend.”

What is the specific role of content agencies in this story?

PV: “Our members have specialised in custom content and custom publishing. Under contract from a brand, we create editorial content for specific target groups and above all for ´owned media´. This can involve texts, infographics, videos, printed material or digital content. We also come up in advance with strategies for influencing the perceptions and behaviour of target groups via this content. Content marketing is a part of the mission, but we see custom content in broader terms. For example, our members also make content for non-marketing purposes. Think of personnel journals, for example.”

How do you see the relationship between content and advertising?

PV: “I like to distinguish between three working methods. There are content projects which virtually stand on their own, so to speak independent of the rest, such as an annual report. In addition you have content campaigns, where different content products and channels reinforce one another, such as banners, a microsite and an e-mailing. These are in turn frequently part of a larger-scale campaign with advertising and PR. Finally there is –what I call – the ´content continuum´: content efforts that go on all year long and cover the entire buying cycle or customer journey. There we engage in content marketing.”

JV: "I think that a lot of campaigns can be enriched with content, and that still isn´t taking place right now. In addition, content agencies will also continue to do many things that are far removed from what advertising agencies traditionally do."

How can advertising and content agencies work together?

JV: “A lot depends on the mindset of the advertiser and his objectives.”

PV: “That´s true. My experience is that collaboration between agencies can be initiated most easily and most quickly leads to successes if the advertiser seduces the agencies into working together. And that means first of all: clearly delineating the territory and the responsibilities of each agency and making sure they are respected.”

What requirements does a good content agency have to satisfy?

PV: “That´s a tough question. I certainly have ten points. (laughs)

Choose three of them.

PV: “The first is obvious: content. A content agency must be able to tell a story in an engaging way, it has to be able to play on different content channels and it must, within the outlines of a communication strategy, be able to develop the right content strategy. Secondly: you have to be able to measure the results of your efforts, so that you can adapt and refine your strategy. Custo has therefore developed the Custometer, a survey instrument that measures reader satisfaction and reader effect. Finally, I believe in what we just discussed: that the future belongs to those agencies who focus on collaboration and can effectively put it into practice.

This interview by Hans Hermans appeared earlier on the CUSTO blog.

Would you like to know what content agency Cypres can do for your company? Contact Pieter for more information.