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Marketer Must-Have: Original Web Editorial

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"Having a core content strategy is the secret to engaging an audience," said Paul Beck, senior partner and executive director of digital at Ogilvy Worldwide. "We already know some of the most trusted sources are not brand content. We're not hiding from it."

At Ogilvy, that's meant an overall rethinking of how it plans campaigns. The agency, of course, still puts great care in the content it produces for awareness -- TV commercials, print ads, radio spots and Web advertising -- but it has found that a majority of the content nowadays is either co-created with consumers or "stimulated" through social media outreach programs.

"There are thousands of people at Ogilvy," Beck said. "And that's not enough people to create the volume of content needed. I could do it all day long, but we're not enough people or the right people sometimes."

In some cases, Associated Content has licensed "thousands" of pieces to brands, according to CEO Pat Keane, a scale hard for agencies to match. "That's not their expertise," he said. "We have an entire content ecosystem built for them."

AT&T is promoting its content through banner ads with headlines that link to InSite. The content itself, however, remains brand neutral, according to Schembri. "Hopefully they leave thinking they got something of value and more than just an advertising message," he said.

The secret for brands is making the content more than digital marketing pollution optimized to clog up search engines when people are looking for information, according to Keane. That means making sure the content, whether it's commissioned or co-created, is more than a product brochure.

"That's something users are going to vote with their clicks," he said.

Nielsen Business Media