“People don’t read advertisements. People read what interests them. Sometimes, it’s an ad.” — Howard Luck Gossage

Advertising innovator Howard Luck Gossage must have had an eye to the future when he made this observation in 1986. The bar for what constitutes great content has continued to rise, and traditional advertising doesn’t look much like it did when Gossage predicted the shift in consumer attention. Today, forward-thinking brands are creating original content with the objective of engaging their audience first, and selling their products second.

Unsurprisingly, as the bar for great marketing has risen, so have the standards for measuring marketing’s output. There’s been an industry-wide call to evaluate digital more critically, as marketers realize no amount of tech and targeting can help them perfect the atomic unit of their marketing: the content itself.

To understand how marketers are approaching their content creation (and subsequent investment), we surveyed over 200 U.S. marketing executives to find out how much of their budget is consumed by content creation costs (or “non-working spend”), and how those costs will grow in the coming year. Our findings are summarized in The Cost of Creativity: Where and Why Brands are Investing in 2017.

Content Marketing Drives Business ROI

First, the good news: 86% of marketers see their content marketing investment driving business value. However, it is becoming more and more challenging to do content marketing cost-effectively. And it’s not just the internal demands to create more, and more relevant, content that are pushing these costs up. New media formats like social video carry associated demands on frequency and volume of publishing, forcing brands to spend more on the back-end, like design and digital talent and technology.

We need to plan for an omnichannel future

And when you look at how the average marketing (media) budget breaks down, it’s no surprise that marketers are dealing with a more complex, channel-rich landscape.

The proof is in the planning

The consequences of poor planning go beyond than just off-message content. One global brand Percolate works with estimates they lose $5 million each year from poorly briefed campaigns. And this isn’t an isolated problem: the greatest inefficiencies, we found, lie in the often-overlooked initial stages of the process: the planning, briefing, and creative workflows. We call these upstream processes: the stages before creative is distributed.

While content creation costs are necessary — and largely unavoidable if you’re trying to succeed at multichannel marketing — there is an urgent need to evaluate upstream processes more critically.

Global brands must better manage the work of marketing: the countless assets and campaigns their teams create and share, the resulting creative, and the processes that tie these together. We will be writing more soon about how production costs can be controlled as marketing gets more complex. In the meantime, read the full report “The Cost of Creativity: Where and Why Brands are Investing in 2017”  and see how 200+ marketers are approaching content marketing’s most pressing challenges and opportunities.

To learn more about how the world’s largest brands are planning omnichannel content, join us for Transition in New York City on September 28.