Isentia CMO: ‘Content marketing has become a trendy term that everyone is trying to jump on the back of’

Asia’s creative and media industries are using content marketing as a “trendy” term through which to sell a “fairly traditional business model”, the chief marketing officer of the beleaguered media intelligence company Isentia has said.

Following the closure of Isentia’s King Content office in Hong Kong, Richard Spencer said that while content marketing was not a saturated area in Asia, it had become a bandwagon all industry players had jumped on.

Spencer: “It’s about what content can do to an organisation rather than chasing campaign-related revenue.”

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia, Spencer said Isentia now faced the challenge of “converting” clients from the axed King Content brand in Asia over to Isentia’s “data-led” offering.

“All the creative agencies, all the PR agencies would say they do content really well,” he said. “It’s a competitive space: from media, to creative to specialist agencies, everyone says they do content. It’s an entirely different dynamic than it was three years. Shifting Isentia’s approach to being data-led is the key differentiator between ourselves and our competitors.”

“No I would say the market is not [saturated]. Would we like less [competitors]? Yes, but there are not too many. Content marketing is one those terms that encompasses a wide range of marketing: when do you stop calling it creative? Or native advertising? And start calling it media buying? It’s quite a blurred sphere, and content marketing has become a trendy term that people are trying to jump on the back of and sell what is a fairly traditional business model dressed in content clothes.”

He added: “The core element of content marketing within our digitally exposed lives is not going away.”

Earlier this week, Isentia’s CEO John Croll dismissed concerns the company overpaid for King Content, which it bought for S$48 million in 2015. Speaking to Mumbrella in Australia, Croll added that the content marketing arm of Isentia will now search for more-secure long-term contracts to ensure it has reliable revenues.

Elaborating on Croll’s comments, Spencer said: “Content marketing has been through a couple of iterations. There was a move to chasing more creative accounts: shorter-term campaign-related revenue. There is now a refocus around strategy… It’s about what content can do to an organisation rather than chasing campaign-related revenue that is well served by the creative agencies.”

Spencer also dismissed the idea that King Content’s business was based on a “pile it high, sell it cheap” model, following claims that writers in the company’s freelance network were being paid as little as 15 cents per word. I don’t believe – and I could be wrong – that we ever sold it that cheap or even priced it like that,” he said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on quality of service. And while you don’t always get it right, but the content has always been of a really high standard.”

Meanwhile, speaking about the Hong Kong base’s closure, Isentia chief executive for Asia David Liu said: “[The closure] was mainly a commercial reason. King Content was founded in Singapore so has a full operation and quite a lot of clients here. The previous operator [of King Content] decided to go into Hong Kong for one or two clients. We never had a full team. It was really difficult to justify the service without getting more clients.”

David Liu

He added: “It’s not easy to get into the market in Hong Kong. All lot of the content marketing is driven out of regional head offices in Singapore or the China headquarters in Shanghai. At the end of the day, you either grow or you don’t grow – you don’t have a base just for the sake of a flat on a map.”

Although the closure of Hong Kong remains a black spot on Isentia’s Asia business, the company said it expects growth in Singapore as the company caters to APAC regional head offices of major brands, plus corporate wins including Samsung in South Korea and China’s Huawei.

The company also launched its MediaPortal platform, which allows brands to track their traditional media and online reach in a number of languages, including Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Tamil, Tagalog, Malay, Indonesian and Korean.



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