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Decoupling 4.0 – A Rallying Call to Marketing Procurement – Carpe Diem – Seize the Day!

The need to create increasing volumes of high quality hyper-personalized content keeps growing. And growing. The bad news is that this will not get any better. It will not only get worse, it will get worse faster. The international creative and content production industry’s traditional structures and operating models simply aren’t keeping up. Nor are the budgets. The good news is that the answers are out there. And there are lessons from past transformations in the marketing content supply chain, driven by marketing procurement, to help guide you.

New operating models are desperately needed to deliver omni-channel, hyper-personalized, content marketing at pace, scale and at an attractive price point, to deliver more, higher quality, faster, and better value content. More good news. These models exist today.

We’re all familiar with the notion of ‘de-coupling’ to achieve savings – but ultimately value beyond savings – through access to best in class creative, strategy and operational solutions, with buying transparency. The process that started in the 1970s with the separation of media planning and buying from full service agencies and their networks, and the extension of that philosophy – enabled by marketing procurement – into the de-coupling and centralization of advertising content production (let’s call that ‘Content de-coupling 1.0’) away from agency networks into Tag, Hogarth and EG+. That was all well and good for the time, but only went as far as delivering broadcast advertising content, which is no longer enough in a world where content extends much more widely than a TVC, Print or Out of Home broadcast campaign. Marketing procurement are struggling to establish what the right agency model(s) for their brands are, and internal re-organizations abound with the aim of evolving marketing team structures to match the customer experience.

Love him or hate him, given the extraordinary influence he has had on our industry, Sir Martin Sorrell’s spectacular exit from WPP, and re-emergence (challenging the very structures he personally created) with S4 Capital, provides an indication to us all to what the future operating model needs to be. For him it is all about multi-national content, enabled by technology and data.

The danger of content de-coupling 1.0 is that the focus has become too narrow, the content need-set ranges far beyond traditional broadcast media, and the savings to be had have largely been harvested. The opportunity across the wider content supply chain at a larger scale dwarfs de-coupling 1.0.

De-coupling 4.0 (we have admittedly skipped de-coupling 2 & 3 – largely for effect, but to emphasis the step change – think iPhone X – what happened to the iPhone 9?) presents an opportunity to re-build (it is all there, just fragmented currently) an integrated international content supply chain capable of managing, and delivering all content across all channels, languages, and media across the product lifecycle, internal and external customer journey and engagement. From product design/service inception, naming, engineering, training and e-learning, HR, product and customer marketing, POS and retail, eCRM, after sales and service, loyalty and reward, online AND offline. An international content supply chain currently managed and delivered in silos in organizations, managed and created by a cast of thousands across specialist agency content creators, managers, adapters and producers, rife with duplication, slow and unwieldy, expensive to buy and manage, and delivering a fragmented customer experience.

Delivery of an international content supply chain doesn’t require a creative agency network to execute it, moreover a model that can provide content across thousands of moving parts – with a ‘Single Source of The Truth’ mentality to storing, managing, adapting and publishing content (which essentially falls into two simple ‘buckets’ of pictures and words, data, facts and figures, and languages, managed by a coordinated content calendar and international content plan). Today the wealth of content and data exists in different organizational silos and it becomes hard to efficiently organize, manage and publish content.

I will quote an SDL client here (thank you Anna N Schlegel from NetApp): “Global Omni-channel Campaign delivery. Super easy to say. Super hard to deliver". It is, if you start from where you are today, trying to fix your specific area of operation in isolation of the broader content supply chain.

De-coupling requires a step back and an end to end, cross-functional view. ‘De-coupling 4.0’ – aggregation of all your content inputs and outputs across languages and border – becomes, in simple terms, a digital backbone to your broader international content supply chain, enabling you to buy the very best creative and strategic input (and reward value and ROI from creative agencies), best in breed technology, and best in class channel and language execution.

‘De-coupling 4.0’ provides a unique moment in time where procurement can access value way beyond saving. We are seeing 30% more content, being delivered faster, at higher quality with personalization – and, on average, with savings far in excess of 15%.

However. This cannot be turned on overnight. It is a journey. It’s about having the right tools, to deliver the right content, at the right time, to the right customer, in the right channel. There’s certainly some complexity in this due to the need to work across departments, and to take an entire international organization, not just the procurement and marketing people, on the journey of change.

But De-coupling 4.0 is an approach that works because content, at its heart, is very simple. As previously mentioned, it’s essentially just buckets of pictures and buckets of words that need to be put together and published. Organizations embarking on De-coupling 4.0 (and you all will, I assure you) require a coordinated Content Calendar and Content Planning process, Content Management System (CMS) and Digital Asset Management tool (DAM) as a starting point – your buckets of pictures and words. It neutralizes the current debate on “what is my optimal agency operating model", future-proofing this whole debate, and ensures clients and brands can access with promiscuity the very best strategic thinking and creative talent, and transparent value in their agency engagements. Be they internal, external, joint venture or even crowdsourced. Or other…

But we need, above all, to look at content in a different way, in terms of the whole of the product lifecycle and customer experience. A global content operating model – what we call the GCOM – is essentially a content governance and ‘marketecture’ framework of who creates, manages and adapts content (the ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘why’) and underpins this. Every company has a GCOM (some inefficient, some more equal than others), and more often than not usually, companies have more than one across departments and territories. But by better joining the dots across all channels and markets, brands can start delivering more content, faster, and of higher quality, at a lower cost. Eliminating waste, duplication, increasing consistency, and removing opportunity for error.

Marketing procurement. De-coupling 4.0 is your time. Carpe Diem. De-coupling 4.0 does not require you to start inventing anything new. Rather it requires a simple integration of things that are already done to achieve a more efficient International Content Supply Chain, and deploy the lessons from de-coupling 1.0 to optimize your GCOM. Those that do seize the day will return extraordinary benefits – and real tangible transformation – to their organizations. And in turn transform the thorny issue of how to manage the Content Challenge of delivering more, better and faster, away from a dirty cost of doing business, into a strategic competitive advantage.

If you’d like to find out more about De-coupling 4.0, and how you can fix the relationship between agencies and your procurement teams, take a look at the following WARC article.