What The Heck Does The Editor-In-Chief Of An Ad Agency Do?

With brands increasingly positioning themselves as content creators, we’re entering a new era for agencies. Forget Don Draper and the creative directors. These days, it’s all about the editor-in-chief.

Michael Grimes is the Editor-in-Chief of Hill Holliday and a veteran of the editorial world. Prior to joining the full-service ad agency, he served as Associate Editor-in-Chief of EAR FARM, an online music magazine. We spoke with Grimes to find out what exactly the EIC of an ad agency does and get his take on this crazy, content-powered ad world we live in.

Michael Grimes, Editor-in-Chief of Hill Holliday

Michael Grimes, Editor-in-Chief of Hill Holliday

First off, what exactly does it mean to be the editor-in-chief of an ad agency?

That’s a good question. (Laughs) What it means here at Hill Holliday is that I oversee a lot of the different content programs that we do for different clients and really make sure that they map back to the broader campaign that’s in market.

Have you seen the types of content that you’re creating for brands change in the last couple of years?

I think it’s always changing. I started at Hill over three years ago, and we were working with one client on one kind of big platform. Since then, it’s shifted to varying levels of complexity for different clients.

Some of it is just social-focused only — that kind of quick, always-on, easily digestible content. Whereas with other programs for different clients, it’s more complicated. It’s a 20-minute film versus a collection of tweets. I think part of that is just the changing nature of digital. Every day there seems like there’s a new platform, a new place where conversations are happening. It’s just [a matter of] always finding our way into those and identifying the ones that make the most sense for a specific brand to be.

So what do you think is the right mix between long and short-form content for brands?

I think it depends on what exactly the brand’s objectives are. If they’re just straight-up providing utility, then maybe it’s better to do a bunch of shorter stuff so you can really address the breadth of different things that you’re trying to help a consumer with. But if you’re really trying to engage and create a lasting, deep relationship with a consumer, then I think that longer-form content can be really powerful. I don’t think it’s out of the question to ask someone to watch a video that’s several minutes long and tests your attention span. If it’s done properly and it’s something that makes sense for the brand, I think that it’s fair game and worth doing.

Do you think we’re at a point where most brands should be creating those deeper, more engaged relationships through longer-form content? Should every brand be trying to be a Red Bull?

It’s tricky. Red Bull is able to play in that space because they kind of have permission to based on what their core product offering is. They’ve done a tremendous job of blowing that out and creating a whole lifestyle and ethos around it. But not every brand can do that. A lot of the time, it’s trying to find that kind of adjacency to what a brand is about. If you’re selling something that doesn’t have much inherent interest, you’ve got to find another way into it. Long form can be a good way of establishing a brand’s connection to something. It’s a way of bringing a brand’s value to life.

There are some that argue that a lot of agencies just act like frivolous middlemen between brands and content creators. What’s the agency’s role in helping brands create content?

There are a lot of different models to use. You could be the middle man as an agency. We’re kind of taking an end-to-end approach where we work within different departments here to come up with a core strategy and then actually implement it in-house. That said, we do have a network of contributors in different production companies that we utilize as well, but we really offer full-service, end-to-end. And I think that one of the most important things that the agency has to do is really help the brand set up the conditions for a content program to work.

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

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